Legal Counsel Rages Over Derek Chauvin Juror’s’Get Your Knee Off Our Necks’ T-Shirt, Attendance at BLM Rally Prior to Trial
A juror who had been among those twelve who murdered guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin attended a Washington, D.C. rally wearing a shirt which had the words”Make Your Brain Off Our Necks” and also”BLM” emblazoned across its chest. That is based on a since-deleted Facebook photo uncovered by the International Business Times. The picture raises serious legal questions of juror prejudice which will almost certainly be the topic of new court discussions and probable future court hearings in Chauvin’s case. Nevertheless the legal area is divided as to if the resurfaced photo is enough to change the results of Chauvin’s trial — in part since each of the surrounding facts aren’t yet understood and since the law puts a high premium on a juror’s promise to set aside preconceived opinions about instances.
The picture, posted by relative Travis Mitchell on August 31, 2020, shows juror Brandon Mitchell”active[ly] symbolizing” in Washington, D.C. across the time of this so-called”Make Your Knee Off Our Necks” parade on Aug. 28. The philosopher has been described elsewhere as”a day of actions [to] demonstrate our commitment to fighting policing and criminal justice” and an attempt to exploit the movement which”has grown up because the police killing of George Floyd.” It had been scheduled to coincide with the 57th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s”I Have a Dream” speech.
Especially, Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson just motioned for a new trial. He even alleged jury misconduct without going in to detail and did not mention the problem we now talk (though that could change).
Brandon Mitchell, known during jury decision as Juror 52, has been the only juror who returned a verdict to speak out openly about the case (another was another ). He has been vocal about the proceedings which could finish with Chauvin getting a potential 40-year sentence.
When asked about the t-shirt he wore to Washington, D.C., Mitchell told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he’d”been” into the nation’s funding and attended the event”to be around thousands and thousands of Black folks.”
“I only believed it was a good chance to be a part of some thing,” Mitchell continued. When requested by the paper if the event had been a”march for [George] Floyd,” Mitchell stated it was”100% maybe not,” then mentioned the historical importance of the date of this rally. The paper said Mitchell considered the event to possess a sense”beyond” the Chauvin case (with its paraphrase, not his direct quote). The Star-Tribune additional noted that George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, and also his own sister, Bridgett, discussed at the function.
Despite his admitted attendance in the event sporting a motto which entered the national lexicon after Floyd’s death, Mitchell said he answered”no” to prosecution questionnaire prompts which read as follows:
“Did you, or someone close to you, take part in some of those demonstrations or marches against police brutality which occurred in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s death?”
“Other than what you’ve already described previously, have you ever, or anyone close to you, engaged in protests about police use of force or police brutality?”
The full poll had other similar prompts.
“I think I was being really frank, for certain,” Mitchell told the paper regarding the jury selection process, including the questionnaire. “I gave my views on what — on the situation, on Black Lives Issue”
According to the jury poll’s own stipulations, Mitchell’s answers were later needed to be submitted under oath. That requirement — because Mitchell’s own oath later indicated — could lead to the tripping of Minnesota’s perjury statute.
Mitchell told the other Minnesota book that he believed”a calling” (to be a leader) when he received his own jury summons. In addition, he said he managed to put aside his feelings of being dragged over about 50 occasions by the Minneapolis Police Department while considering Chauvin’s destiny.
Talking into this Law&Crime Network within an earlier interview, Mitchell reported the jury discounted defense proposals which drugs led to Floyd’s death and that the audience gathered in the scene distracted the authorities from discovering the harshness of Floyd’s condition. When requested to respond to then-hypothetical complaint that Chauvin could not have received a Reasonable trial given the high level of pretrial publicity, Mitchell issued an answer which had little to do with determining the case based on contested points of legislation (e.g., causation) instead of on emotion:
I think that is just totally ridiculous, just because, um, once you’re in the courtroom, and you’re there, and you’re a human being and you’re watching someone expire on a day to day basis, the stress and the draining draining, and the emotional — the psychological drainage which that causes, um, you do not think about anything happening out of there. You’re now engulfed in — in watching these videos and hearing this distress and this pain. Um, you have compassion for this individual that’s on — that is on those videos. You’re feeling for them. You’re not necessarily thinking about, uh, you knowthe ramifications of what might happen, you understand, oh — if you go this way, if you go this way — you’re not thinking about that because you’re watching someone die every single day. That is what you’re watching. I mean — you feel for that. You feel for that. You only want to do what is at this point.
The legal area is divided as to whether Mitchell’s presence in the rally and his subsequent wearing of this t-shirt bearing the”Make Your Brain Off Our Necks” slogan is enough to result in a victory for Chauvin — assuming his attorneys raise the issue.
“It’s a state of mind. For the ascertainment of this psychological approach of appropriate indifference, the Constitution lays down no particular tests and procedure isn’t chained to some ancient and artificial formula.” If that’s the instance, the Court held that government employees weren’t, by the character of their occupation, inherently biased in the direction of the government prosecutor’s arguments in trial.
That Court said:
Here the”routine of deep and bitter prejudice” revealed to be present throughout the neighborhood… was obviously represented in the sum total of this voir dire examination of a majority of the jurors eventually set in the jury box. Eight out of the 12 believed petitioner had been guilty. With this kind of an opinion permeating their minds, it would be tricky to state that each may exclude this preconception of remorse out of his deliberations. The effect that lurks within an opinion once formed is so persistent that it automatically combats detachment from the mental processes of the ordinary person.
Turner v. Louisiana (1965) then hailed Dowd favorably while turning another conviction. Prosecutors procured the conviction in issue during the testimony of two sheriff’s deputies that were tasked with protecting and transporting the sequestered jury which was empaneled to estimate that exact same testimony. The deputies both grapple together and openly conversed with the jurors while they were off the stand, and also the trial judge could hear nothing of their defense’s ailments. The Supreme Court found a problem with the procedure (internal citations and quotations omitted):
The requirement for a jury’s verdict should be determined by the evidence developed in the trial belongs to the fundamental integrity of all that is adopted in the inherent notion of trial by jury.
[ … ]
[ … ]
What occurred in this case operated to subvert these basic guarantees of trial by jury.
More recently, in Smith v. Phillips (1982), the court bemoaned”the human propensity for self-justification” while indicating that jurors themselves cannot be trusted to accurately tell their entire stories in a prejudice. The court reasserted in Smith which hearings are necessary to ferret out real juror prejudice.
At issue in Smith was if a juror’s submission of a work application to the prosecutor’s office created a prejudice so strong that a conviction ought to be reversed. The Court held as the above language foretold — which it did not. The court refused to grant a convicted offender any relief:
Were that the rule, few trials are constitutionally acceptable. Due process means a jury capable and willing to decide the case solely on the evidence before it, and a trial judge ever watchful to prevent prejudicial occurrences and to ascertain the effect of such occurrences when they occur. Such determinations can properly be produced at a hearing loss.
The Minnesota Supreme Court in 2007 took significant time in a footnote explaining the gap between real bias and implied prejudice in a case which included a”racially biased” juror. Actual prejudice entails a juror’s state of mind; it”is normally subject to rehabilitation,” and the juror”can sit on the prosecution if he or she agrees to set aside any preconceived notions and make a determination based on the evidence and the court’s directions.” (Implied prejudice is”considered as a matter of law” because of, e.g., a direct conflict of interest or even a family relationship between a juror and a suspect.)
It seems legally possible that a hearing on the matter of why Brandon Mitchell’s behavior is imminent, however several criminal defense attorneys who appear frequently as guests or hosts on the Law&Crime Network appeared to indicate that a triumph for Chauvin seems improbable.
Defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden reported in the earliest voir dire query limited its reach into protests”in Minneapolis.” Thus, Mitchell’s proffered response,”no,” was entirely adequate — since the gathering now drawing attention occurred in D.C.
The second voir dire question,” she stated, might need a little further afield, given the D.C. rally many themes.
Overall, the picture and the following uproar”can make juror appear neater, and the estimate isn’t going to be pleased,” Kenney Baden stated. “However, in my estimation, it won’t overturn the verdict.”
New York City public defender Brian Buckmire agreed that more factual evaluation was necessary.
“He [Mitchell] clarifies that he attended as one for voting rights, but he had been conscious of others protesting George Floyd,” Buckmire said. “As someone who has attended protests, I’m not surprised in [a] huge protest that people showed up for a single reason while there had been 20 other causes . I really don’t see this as a lie.”
Generally , though, Buckmire suggested that the case law mentioned above implies Chauvin’s defense could”have to locate something HUGE to overturn” the verdict based on jury prejudice — like the Dowd case where eight of the twelve jurors were biased from the nation.
Buckmire was concerned that Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, didn’t probe Mitchell properly.
Buckmire saw as the greatest question any followup hearing or litigation should reply. Then, it must examine what queries Nelson requested; if Nelson had challenges left which could have been used to strike the juror; and if the”high standard to overturn the conviction” was fulfilled in this case.
In certain countries, for example New York, attorneys must exhaust all of their peremptory challenges until they could appeal a query involving jury prejudice, Buckmire mentioned.
Former New Jersey county prosecutor and present criminal defense attorney Bob Bianchi known as the development”quite serious and troubling” since the juror wore a t-shirt which condemned the activities of the suspect that juror was ultimately called to judge:
The prosecution already has a lot of work to do to convince an appeals court rather than altering venue, maybe not sequestering jurors, acquiring a civil compensation in the center of jury decision, having jurors being exposed to a different incident that sparked protests during the trial, and a essential medical/blood gas report being withheld all failed to influence the jurors’ decisions in Chauvin’s case. However, these arguments were somewhat insecure until now.
This advancement for this juror is far more tangible, and on a matter of significance — prejudice against the authorities, and Chauvin in particular. When combined with other problematic issues regarding how this case was handled, it could have a cumulative effect of convincing an appellate court that the conviction of Chauvin ought to be reversed.
The queries to the jurors were specifically tailored to ferret out bias. They have been specifically asked about demonstrations attended, BLM, and remarks formed about the circumstance. The court frequently repeated that it had no reason to disbelieve the juror answers. But now, there’s reason to think that a juror, who went into a demonstration sporting a tee shirt which especially condemned the suspect’s actions, was not accurate when these problems were addressed by the court.
Bianchi then raised several devious what-ifs:
Throughout this trial I have been worried about many issues concerning the suspect’s right to find a fair trial. No individual ought to be . I frequently said in the media which as a prosecutor, I not won the case in trial but also on appeal, also.
This development should lead to the court calling the juror into seek out an explanation of these important and significant connections between his statements to the court during jury decision versus what is now being unearthed. I wonder, even if this kind of inquiry occurs, if the juror might refuse to answer the court’s questions by asserting his 5th Amendment right to stay silent — since his statements to the court in jury decision were made under oath.
If this were to happen, the Derek Chauvin conviction could be a toss up on charm.
“A complex street for the protection,” said New Jersey criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Mike Koribanics. “All of us have our own feelings and beliefs. The defense, in my understanding, would have to show that those personal beliefs were put forth through deliberations and determined the verdict.”
“You might have heard things about the case… it is fine to get read concerning it. It is difficult to avoid. It is alright to form opinions based on everything you’ve heard and seen. But as a juror, you have to put everything aside. Decide this evidence only the signs you hear in the courtroom. Basically, be a blank slate, and apply the law as I give this to youpersonally. Do you believe you could do this?”
“For certain,” Mitchell stated.
Watch Mitchell’s entire voir dire below:
[Image via the Law&Crime Network.]
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