Alternate Juror in Derek Chauvin Trial: “I did not want to go through rioting and destruction again”
“… and I was concerned about people coming to my house if they were not happy with the verdict,” Lisa Christensen said of her “mixed feelings” when filling out the juror questionnaire.
Well before the guilty verdict was announced in the Derek Chauvin trial earlier this week, there were concerns that fears of riots breaking out or jury members being personally targeted if they voted the “wrong way” would play a role in their deliberations, especially after some “news” outlets stupidly revealed previously unknown personal information on some of the jurors in the closing days of the trial.
Lisa Christensen, who was an alternate juror in the trial (but did not know she was an alternate until just before deliberations began), gave an interview to Minneapolis news station KARE 11 on Thursday where she provided the first insight the public is getting into what went through the minds of jurors before and during the trial. Some of the things she said during the interview raised more questions regarding the possibility that some jurors feared voting to acquit would hurt their city – or them.
Christensen, who lives in Brooklyn Center, told reporter Lou Raguse that she had “mixed feelings” about the possibility of being a juror when she filled out the jury questionnaire:
“There was a question on the questionnaire [asking if she wanted to be a juror] and I put I did not know. The reason, at that time, was I did not know what the outcome was going to be, so I felt like either way you are going to disappoint one group or the other. I did not want to go through rioting and destruction again and I was concerned about people coming to my house if they were not happy with the verdict.”
She also told Raguse the jurors did not use their real names with each other during the trial, nor did they discuss their occupations or families. Apparently, there was a concern about saying “too much”:
“I got to know them a little bit, but it was hard because we did not talk about anything pertaining to the trial at all. We did not identify ourselves amongst each other, so we did not say our names, occupations, or anything about our families. We had to do small talk about the weather and have meaningless conversations.”
Because she lives in Brooklyn Center, Christensen got an up-close and personal view of some of the rioting that took place after the officer-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright last week. She claimed the incident “did not impact” her thoughts on the Chauvin case:
It did not impact me as far as the trial went. However, only being about six blocks from the police department, I could hear everything. When I came home, I could hear the helicopters flying over my house… I could hear the flash bangs going off. If I stepped outside, I could see the smoke from the grenades. One day, the trial ran a little late, and I had trouble getting to my house, because the protesters were blocking the interstate, so I had to go way around. I was aware, but it did not affect me at all.
She also says she believes the Chauvin trial will make it harder for the three other officers charged in the case to get a fair trial due to all the publicity:
Raguse: Based on what you saw in this trial, how do you think that will go for them?
Christensen: I think their trial is going to be impacted by this trial and the outcome of it. I think everybody played such a different role and everybody should be judged on their participation.
Raguse: When you say a tougher time, do you mean putting on the trial because of the publicity from this trial?
During the interview, Christensen made it clear that she believed Chauvin was guilty and says she would have voted that way had she been a part of deliberations. Her exchange with the KARE reporter as well as other statements she’s made to the media since then give me the feeling she had determined Chauvin’s guilty early on, but that’s just my impression.
This is my personal opinion, of course, but it’s hard to believe that fear of retaliation wasn’t present in the jury room on some level, even if it wasn’t explicitly discussed. If you’ll recall, during the jury selection process, some prospective jurors admitted to fears of being targeted by rioters.
Human emotions are what they are. Though they were partially sequestered throughout the trial, none of the Chauvin jurors could have possibly missed the destruction that happened in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death, if not also the nightly rioting that happened in cities like Portland and Seattle.
Keep in mind, too, that it’s highly unlikely that any juror would openly admit that safety concerns played a role in their decision to convict. It’s not very often you see people who are put in the position of making decisions that impact others admit they voted the way they did because they were fearful of what might happen to them if they didn’t.
That said, obviously, Christensen’s words will have to be taken at face value. Assuming other jurors come forward in the coming weeks to share their stories, it will be interesting to hear their thoughts on what went through their minds before, during, and after the trial, and if they line up with Christensen’s.
Watch the full interview below:
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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