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Three jurors seated in Derek Chauvin's murder trial

A white man who lives in Minneapolis and works as a chemist was the first juror picked in the first trial in George Floyd's death.
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Jury selection in the murder trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's death began Tuesday with the first potential juror being excused after she said during questioning that she thought the way the officer had acted was "not fair."

The woman, a married nursing assistant from Mexico with three children, said that when she first saw bystander video showing the former officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd's neck, she remembered thinking: "He can't do that."

She said she recalled Floyd saying, "I can't breathe."

"My opinion is when he tell the guy 'I can't breathe' and he still do that ... ," she said, adding that she observed other police officers at the scene and wondered why they didn't intervene. "What I feel, that's not fair because we are humans."

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, asked the woman whether she could change her mind if she saw other evidence during the trial. She said that she could.

Nelson pointed out that she answered on her juror questionnaire before reporting Tuesday that she wanted to be on the jury because "I would like to give my opinion of the unjust death of George Floyd."

About an hour into jury selection, she was dismissed. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill had earlier rejected Nelson's request to remove her for cause over concerns about her proficiency in English.

At least five jurors were excused Tuesday and three were seated, including two white men, one of whom is a chemist from Minneapolis and a woman originally from northern Minnesota, who told Nelson that she was "super excited" to have received a jury summons.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. A bystander recorded video of Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes. Three other officers involved are scheduled to stand trial in August.

Jury selection proceeded despite uncertainty over whether a third-degree murder charge will be added. The state has asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to stop proceedings until that is resolved, which could delay the trial by at least 30 days, Cahill said Monday.

The chemist was the second potential juror to be questioned. He said that because of his profession, he considers himself "a pretty logical person."

"I rely on facts and logic and what's in front of me," he said. "Opinion and facts are important distinctions for me."

He was questioned at length by Nelson about such things as his opinion of the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as his responses to questions on the juror questionnaire about the Black Lives Matter movement and the Blue Lives Matter cause, which he said he did not believe were "mutually exclusive."

"I don't love the Black Lives Matter organization," the man said. "I do support the movement. I support the message that every life should matter equally."

He added: "I don't believe that the organization Black Lives Matter necessarily stands for that. I do think that the phrase and the movement stand for that."

The man also said he has not seen video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck.

"I have not seen the video," he told Nelson. "There's a still image that was pretty common. That's the most I've seen."

He was then questioned for a few minutes by the prosecution and was selected.

The third potential juror was quickly excused after she told Cahill, "I don't know that I could promise to be impartial."

The fourth prospective juror, a Hispanic man, said he moved from a small town in Southern California to Minnesota "to chase the Minnesota dream." He said he has training in martial arts, specifically muay thai and Brazilian jiujitsu.

Nelson referred to a response on the questionnaire in which the man wrote "the cop performed an illegal tactic with his knee across the neck."

The man said that in a video he had seen, it looked as though Chauvin's knee was "too high." Nelson ultimately exercised one of his peremptory challenges, and the man was dismissed.

Prosecutors then objected, saying Nelson had rejected two jurors, the first and the fourth — both of whom are people of color — because of their race. (Attorneys are required to give a race-neutral reason for striking jurors.)

Nelson said it was the man's practice of martial arts that concerned him and his characterization of Chauvin's restraint as an "illegal" move.

Cahill approved the dismissal, saying the man had made his opinions clear and did not appear impartial.

The next juror indicated that he had watched bystander videos of Floyd's arrest May 25 that left him with a negative view of Chauvin's actions.

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Prosecutor Steve Schleicher dismissed the man, despite his assertion he could be an impartial juror, after noting that he had said in his questionnaire response that he strongly agreed that it is wrong to second-guess officers for the decisions they make on-duty.

"The vast majority of the cases they've got to make split-second decisions and they make those," the man said in explaining his response. "I respect their service and how they help protect the community."

Two other people were selected as jurors. One was a female person of color who said she is related to a police officer and was eager to serve on the jury given the magnitude of the case. She said it is a very important case, not just for Hennepin County, but also nationwide. She said that after viewing bystander video of Floyd's arrest, she initially had a somewhat negative impression of Chauvin, but she said she could be open-minded during the trial.

"That video just makes you sad," she said. "Nobody wants to see somebody die, whether it was his fault or not."

The final juror seated Tuesday was a white man who works as an auditor.

Also Tuesday, Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader said the city made an offer to Floyd's family last summer that was rejected. He did not provide details. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, declined to comment. Floyd's family filed a lawsuit in July against the city of Minneapolis and the four officers charged in his death.