Chauvin Juror Admits Participating In Pre-Trial Protest, Photographed In “Knee Off Our Necks” T-Shirt
Juror No. 52, Brandon Mitchell, answered “no” to two questions in the juror questionnaire that asked about participation in demonstrations.
I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised that the jury in the Derek Chauvin case was compromised. Whether Chauvin could get a fair and impartial jury was doubtful, as Andrew Branca and I explained in detail during our post-verdict online event.
The problem was a combination of pre-trial and ongoing threats of violence if there was a not guilty verdict, and an underlying lack of aggressiveness by the defense and the judge in weeding out biased jurors.
Now there is evidence that at least one juror was tainted beyond repair, calling into question the legal viability of the verdict.
The Post-Millenial was the first to reveal a pre-trial photo of Juror No. 52, Brandon Mitchell, in a T-shirt the words “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.” As you may recall from the trial, the assertion that pressure from Chauvin’s knee to Floyd’s neck caused Floyd’s death was not the theory put forward by the prosecution’s medical experts, who asserted that Floyd died from positional asphyxiation resulting from being held face down in the prone position with pressure from three officers on his back and legs. The prosecution’s own experts acknowledged that Chauvin’s knee was mostly on Floyd’s upper back and back of the neck, and he did not die from damage to the structures of the neck, of which there was none.
The Post-Millenial posted this Facebook screengrab:It also turns out that Mitchell attended a rally about Floyd’s death, though he is spinning it as a more neutral protest. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
A juror in the Derek Chauvin murder trial is defending his attendance at the March on Washington anniversary last summer in light of online speculation about his motives on the jury.
In recent days, a photo of Brandon Mitchell that was originally posted on social media around the Aug. 28 event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech began circulating online and on multiple news sites. Many commentators online questioned his motive and its potential to fuel an appeal in Chauvin’s case.
Mitchell, who is Black, was one of 12 jurors who convicted Chauvin two weeks ago on all counts against him — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — in the May 25 killing of George Floyd, who is also Black. Mitchell was the first juror to go public about his role, and spoke to several media outlets last week.
“I’d never been to [Washington] D.C.,” Mitchell said Monday of his reasons for attending the event. “The opportunity to go to D.C., the opportunity to be around thousands and thousands of Black people; I just thought it was a good opportunity to be a part of something.”
The Star Tribune notes that this participation was contrary to Mitchell’s jury questionaire answers:
Mitchell said the social media post was made by his uncle, who is the father of one of the cousins pictured, and appears to be “a partial real post.” However, he said, he has no recollection of wearing or owning the shirt.
Mitchell said the event was commemorating the 57th anniversary of King’s famous speech, which advocated for civil and economic rights for Blacks, and is credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The event was “100% not” a march for Floyd, Mitchell said, adding, “It was directly related to MLK’s March on Washington from the ’60s … The date of the March on Washington is the date.”
The event had several components, including: advocating for racial justice, increasing voter registration, pushing for a new version of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and urging participation in the 2020 census.
It also focused on police use-of-force. Floyd’s brother and sister, Philonise and Bridgett Floyd, and family members of others who have been shot by police addressed the crowd. It served as a rallying point for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a federal police reform bill.
Mitchell said he answered “no” to two questions in the juror questionnaire sent out before jury selection that asked about participation in demonstrations.
The first question asked, “Did you, or someone close to you, participate in any of the demonstrations or marches against police brutality that took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death?”
The second asked, “Other than what you have already described above, have you, or anyone close to you, participated in protests about police use of force or police brutality?”
You can read the form of jury questionaire here. Since the protest Mitchell admits to attending was in D.C., not Minneapolis, he may have an out on Question No. 7
But it’s hard to see a justification for answering Question No. 12 in the negative:
I would not be surprised if more information comes out about Mitchell being involved in protests.
So Mitchell lied under any reasonable interpretation of the jury questions and his participation in the protest. This could result in a mistrial:
A number of legal sources, including those familiar with the trial, told WCCO this juror at minimum will have to be questioned in what’s called a Schwartz hearing. And depending on his answers, a mistrial could be declared.
WCCO spoke with law professor Rachel Moran from the University of St. Thomas about what this photo could mean for the case.
“Did the juror speak the truth? Or alternatively, did the juror say something untrue during questioning?” Moran said. “But the other thing to keep in mind is did the lawyers do their job in investigating the juror?” Moran said.
The Star Tribune quotes from this void dire questioning of Mitchell:
Nelson asked Mitchell several questions during jury selection, and Mitchell told him: He had watched clips of bystander video of the incident; he had talked about the case with his family, friends and co-workers; he had wondered why three other officers at the scene didn’t stop Chauvin; and he had a “very favorable” opinion of Black Lives Matter.
Mitchell also told Nelson he knew some police officers at his gym who were “great guys,” and that he felt neutral about Blue Lives Matter, a pro-police group. He said he could be neutral at trial.
Mitchell was questioned on Day 6 of jury selection. Here is Andrew Branca’s coverage at the time:
JUROR #52: SEATED ON THE JURY
Juror #52 presented as a youngish male. Obviously, the jurors are not being shown on camera, but if I had to speculate based on the audio, I would guess that #52 was black.
Juror #52 was described as working in the banking industry in a customer-focused job, and separately being engaged in coaching children’s sports.
There was nothing much remarkable about the voir dire of #52. He professed he’d be willing to be fair to both sides, judge the case only on the evidence and law presented in court—even if he thought the law was wrong or should be changed—and that he could provide the defendant with a fair and impartial hearing.
Interestingly, #52 had written in his juror questionnaire that he didn’t believe anyone intended for Floyd to die that day, but nevertheless the fact that Floyd did die suggested that something ought to be changed moving forward. He also recognized that there could be a thought process on the part of the officers that made their conduct reasonable, despite the negative outcome.
This juror also wrote in his questionnaire that he wondered why the other officers involved had not intervened. When pressed by the defense to explore whether this meant he assumed Chauvin had acted wrongfully, #52 indicated not necessarily so. He compared it to if he (#52) were driving somewhat thoughtlessly, and a passenger prompted him to pay more attention. Someone can intervene even if what they are correcting is not done with malice.
The juror also noted in his questionnaire that he’d been arrested once himself, for having a “bad license,” but that the officers involved had treated him professionally. He also somewhat agreed that the officers in his community made him feel safe.
The defense also asked if the juror would be able to arrive at a not guilty verdict, knowing that he’d have to explain his decision to the kids he coached in sports. He said he would.
The defense passed for cause, meaning that #52 was acceptable to the defense as a juror.
Here is the full voir dire:
The jury was tainted, no doubt. This is just the first shoe to drop. Let’s see what the judge does.DONATE
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