Former Washington AG: Juror wearing BLM shirt ‘not enough’ to overturn Chauvin verdict
It turns out that one of the jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial attended the anniversary of the March on Washington and wore a T-shirt that included a reference to George Floyd, which may end up being part of the defense’s request for a retrial.
Former state attorney general Rob McKenna isn’t sure it will be enough to overturn the verdict.
“The defense counsel is doing what you would expect in a case like this, asking for a new trial based on a long list of reasons. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at this motion for retrial,” McKenna said. “One of the categories is juror misconduct. The motion that the defense lawyer filed said that the jury committed misconduct, and apparently one example of that, that he’ll cite when he gets to argue this motion in front of the judge, is that this one juror attended the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington.”
“That’s the march where reverend Dr. King gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech — there was apparently some social media, with a post of this juror — his name is Mitchell — wearing a T-shirt referencing Black Lives Matter,” McKenna explained.
When jurors were screened before their potential service on the jury, they had to check off a box on the questionnaire that said they had not attended any rallies or demonstrations about police use of force or police brutality.
“The question is whether attending the anniversary March on Washington means [Mitchell] lied about that point,” McKenna said. “It isn’t clear that he did, but the fact that he’s showing up wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt will be cited by the defense attorney as grounds for finding that he did not come to the trial unbiased.”
The theme or phrase of this particular anniversary event was “get your knee off our necks,” which is seen on the T-shirt that the juror was wearing.
“It’s definitely going to be cited as evidence that he did not come to the case with an open mind,” McKenna said about the photo. “The ‘get your knee off our necks’ logo or phrase was the theme of this particular anniversary event in Washington. It had a picture of Dr. King on it and the phrase ‘get your knee off our necks,’ but he was one of 12 jurors, and it was a jury that only took 10 hours to convict Chauvin of all three counts, which he was charged with — second degree and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.”
“And to overturn a jury verdict is a hard thing to do, it’s a pretty high bar,” he continued. “It can occasionally happen or a sentence can be overturned. … But Mitchell’s checking that box off in the questionnaire that he had not participated in a protest march about police brutality when in fact he attended this event, which could be interpreted as that kind of protest, will be one piece of evidence.”
The judge has to then be convinced that Chauvin did not receive a fair trial overall.
“One juror engaging in one activity that might suggest he wasn’t unbiased is probably not enough to overturn the verdict and require a new trial,” McKenna said.
McKenna also noted that when Mitchell was questioned before the trial by the defense counsel and the prosecution, he indicated that he had a favorable impression of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“He was open about that and he just said, ‘look, I think it’s just a statement of fact that Black Lives just want to be treated as equals and not killed or treated in an aggressive manner simply because they’re Black,’ so he saw it as a statement of fact,” McKenna said.
“It’s just hard to see this one data point being enough to conclude that Chauvin didn’t get a fair trial overall. Again, because the jury, of course it was unanimous, as it has to be, but also only took 10 hours to convict. And importantly, because the evidence in this case was so strong, as you and I have discussed previously — the video that we’ve all seen of George Floyd on the ground with Chauvin’s knee on his neck, the other video evidence, the first person witness testimony — that’s all really powerful and I think it weighs against finding that Chauvin didn’t get a fair trial.”
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