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 the twelve who issued guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin attended a Washington, D.C. rally wearing a shirt that was the words”Get Your Brain Off Our Necks” along with also”BLM” emblazoned across its chest. That is according to some since-deleted Facebook photograph detected from the International Business Times. The image raises serious legal concerns of juror prejudice that will almost certainly be the topic of new court arguments and likely future court hearings in Chauvin’s case. However the legal community is divided as to whether the resurfaced photo is sufficient to change the results of Chauvin’s trial — in part because all of the surrounding facts aren’t yet understood and because the law puts a high premium to a juror’s promise to put aside preconceived opinions about cases.
The march was described elsewhere as”a day of actions [to] show our dedication to fighting for policing and criminal justice” and an effort to exploit the movement which”has risen up since the police killing of George Floyd.”
Brandon Mitchell, understood during jury selection since Juror 52, has been the sole juror who actually returned a verdict to speak out openly about the case (another was an alternate). He has been vocal regarding the event that could finish with Chauvin receiving a possible 40-year sentence.
When asked regarding the t-shirt he wore to Washington, D.C., Mitchell advised the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he’d”never been” to the country’s funding and attended the event”to be around thousands and tens of thousands of Black men and women.”
“I just believed it was a fantastic chance to be a part of a thing,” Mitchell continued. When asked by the paper whether the event had been a”march for [George] Floyd,” Mitchell stated it was”100% perhaps not,” then cited the historic significance of the date of this rally. The paper said Mitchell believed the event to possess a sense”beyond” that the Chauvin instance (using its paraphrase, not his direct quotation ). The Star-Tribune additionally noted the George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, along with also his sister, Bridgett, spoke in the event. It also”served as a rallying point for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a national authorities reform bill,” the paper added.
Despite his admitted attendance in the event sporting a motto which just entered the national lexicon after Floyd’s death, Mitchell said he answered”no” to jury survey pushes that read as follows:
“Did you, or someone close to you, take part in any of the demonstrations or marches against police brutality which occurred in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s departure?”
“Other than what you’ve already explained previously, have you ever, or anyone close to you, participated in protests about police use of force or police brutality?”
The entire questionnaire had other comparable prompts.
“I believe I was being incredibly frank, for certain,” Mitchell told the paper regarding the jury selection process, for example, questionnaire. “I gave my views on everything — on the circumstance, on Black Lives Matter.”
According to the jury poll’s own stipulations, Mitchell’s responses were later needed to be submitted under oath. That requirement — because Mitchell’s very own oath later signaled — could bring about the tripping of Minnesota’s perjury statute.
Mitchell told another Minnesota book that he believed”a calling” (to be a pioneer ) if he received his own jury summons. He also said he managed to set aside his feelings of being pulled over approximately 50 occasions by the Minneapolis Police Department while considering Chauvin’s fate.
Talking to this Law&Crime Network within an earlier interview, Mitchell reported the jury disregarded defense suggestions which drugs contributed to Floyd’s departure and that the crowd gathered in the scene distracted the authorities from discovering the severity of Floyd’s state. When asked to respond to then-hypothetical complaint that Chauvin could not have received a Reasonable trial given the high degree of pretrial publicity, Mitchell issued a response that had little to do with determining the case based on disputed points of law (e.g., causation) instead of emotion:
I believe that is just completely ridiculous, simply because, um, once you’re in the courtroom, and you are there, and you are a human being and you are watching somebody die to a day to day basis, the stress and the draining draining, along with the mental — the psychological drainage which that causes, um, you do not think of anything going on outside of the there. You’re currently engulfed in — in watching these videos and hearing this agony and this pain. Um, you have compassion for this person that is on — that is on those videos. You’re feeling . You’re not necessarily thinking of, uh, you knowthe ramifications of what could happen, you realize, oh — if you proceed this way, if you move this way — you are not thinking about that since you are watching someone die every single day. That is what you are watching. I mean — you feel because of that. You feel because of that. You just need to do what is at this point.
The legal community is divided as to whether Mitchell’s presence in the rally along with his subsequent wearing of this t-shirt posture the”Make Your Brain Off Our Necks” motto is sufficient to lead to a victory for Chauvin — assuming his lawyers raise the problem.
Under the Sixth Amendment, defendants have a constitutional right to be tried by an”impartial jury” A set of U.S. Supreme Court cases happen at times pondered the parameters of that which”impartiality” means.
“Impartiality is not a technical conception,” the Court said in United States v. Wood (1936). “It is a state of mind. For the ascertainment of the psychological attitude of appropriate indifference, the Constitution lays down no particular tests and process is not chained to any ancient and artificial formula” In that case, the Court maintained that government workers were not, from the character of their job, inherently biased towards the government prosecutor’s arguments in trial.
Afterwards, in Irvin v. Dowd (1961), the Court turned into a murder conviction and a death sentence after a trial that was standing together with jury bias. That Court explained:
Here the”blueprint of deep and bitter prejudice” demonstrated to be present throughout the community… was clearly reflected in the sum total of this voir dire examination of a majority of the jurors finally set in the jury box. Eight out of the 12 believed petitioner had been guilty. With this kind of an opinion permeating his minds, it would be tricky to say that each one could exclude this preconception of remorse from his deliberations. The influence that lurks within an opinion once formed is so consistent that it automatically combats detachment from the mental processes of the normal man.
Turner v. Louisiana (1965) subsequently quoted Dowd favorably while flipping another conviction. Prosecutors procured the conviction in issue during the testimony of two sheriff’s deputies who were also tasked with protecting and hauling the sequestered jury that was empaneled to judge the very same testimony. The deputies both grapple together and freely conversed with the jurors while they were off the stand, along with also the trial judge could hear nothing of their defense’s ailments. The Supreme Court saw a problem with the process (internal citations and quotations omitted):
The requirement for a jury’s determination must be determined by the evidence developed in the trial goes to the fundamental integrity of all that is embraced in the constitutional idea of trial by jury.
[ … ]
The failure to accord an accused a reasonable hearing violates even the minimal standards of due process.
[ … ]
What happened in this case operated to subvert these basic guarantees of trial by jury.
More recently, in Smith v. Phillips (1982), the court urged”the individual propensity to get self-justification” while implying that jurors themselves can’t be trusted to accurately inform their whole stories in a prejudice. The court reasserted in Smith which hearings are necessary to ferret out actual juror prejudice.
At issue in Smith was whether a juror’s submission of a work application to the prosecutor’s office made a prejudice so powerful that a conviction should be reversed. The Court held — as the aforementioned language foretold — which it did not. The court refused to give a convicted offender any aid:
[D]ue process does not ask for a new trial every time a juror has been placed in a potentially compromising situation. Were that the rule, few trials would be constitutionally acceptable. The safeguards of juror impartiality, such as voir dire and protective instructions from the trial judge, aren’t infallible; it’s virtually impossible to shield jurors from every contact or influence that might theoretically affect their vote. Due process means a jury capable and willing to decide the case only on the evidence before it, and a trial judge ever watchful to prevent prejudicial occurrences and to determine the effect of such incidents when they occur. Such determinations may properly be made at a hearing loss.
The Minnesota Supreme Court in 2007 took significant time in a footnote describing the difference between actual bias and implied prejudice in a case which included a”racially biased” juror. Actual prejudice entails a juror’s state of mind; it”is generally subject to rehab,” along with also the juror”may sit on the jury when he or she agrees to put aside any preconceived notions and make a determination based on the evidence and the court’s instructions.” (Implied prejudice is”considered as a matter of law” due to, e.g., an immediate conflict of interest or a relative between a juror and a suspect.)
It appears legally possible that a hearing on the topic of why Brandon Mitchell’s behavior is impending, however several criminal defense lawyers who appear regularly as hosts or guests on the Law&Crime Network appeared to indicate that a triumph for Chauvin seems unlikely.
Defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden noted in the initial voir dire query restricted its reach to protests”in Minneapolis.” Thus, Mitchell’s proffered response,”no,” was completely adequate — because the collecting now drawing attention happened in D.C.
The next voir dire question,” she stated, might need a little further afield, awarded the D.C. rally most themes.
In general, the photo and the following uproar”will make juror seem disingenuous, and the judge is not likely to be more pleased,” Kenney Baden stated. “However, in my opinion, it will not overturn the verdict”
New york public defender Brian Buckmire agreed that more factual investigation was necessary.
“He [Mitchell] describes the march he attended for voting rights, however he had been aware of the others protesting George Floyd,” Buckmire explained. “As someone who has attended protests, I’m surprised in [a] huge demonstration that people showed up for one reason while there were 20 other causes there. I don’t find this as a lie”
Generally speaking, however, Buckmire indicated that the case law cited above suggests Chauvin’s defense could”need to find something HUGE to overturn” the verdict according to jury prejudice — like the Dowd case in which eight of the twelve jurors were biased from the country.
Buckmire was also concerned that Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, didn’t probe Mitchell correctly.
“did he lie?” Buckmire viewed as the biggest question any follow-up hearing or lawsuit should reply. Afterward, it should examine what queries Nelson asked; whether Nelson had challenges left that could have been utilized to attack the juror; and whether the”top benchmark to overturn the conviction” was met in this situation.
In some states, for example New York, lawyers need to exhaust all of their peremptory challenges before they could appeal a query involving jury prejudice, Buckmire mentioned.
Former New Jersey county prosecutor and present criminal defense attorney Bob Bianchi called the development”quite serious and troubling” because the juror wore a t-shirt which resisted the actions of the suspect that juror was finally called to judge:
The prosecution has a lot of work to do to convince an appeals court that not altering venue, maybe not sequestering jurors, acquiring a civil settlement in the middle of jury selection, with jurors being exposed to another incident that ignited protests throughout the trial, along with a essential medical/blood gas report being withheld all failed to influence the jurors’ decisions in Chauvin’s instance. However, these disagreements were somewhat insecure until today.
This advancement for this juror is far more tangible, and on an issue of importance — prejudice against the authorities, and Chauvin in particular. When coupled with other problematic issues concerning how this case was handled, it could have a cumulative effect of convincing an appellate court that the conviction of Chauvin should be reversed.
The queries about the jurors were especially made to ferret out bias. They were specifically asked about presentations attended, BLM, and remarks formed concerning the case. The court frequently repeated that it had no reason to disbelieve the juror answers. Now, however, there’s reason to think a juror, who formerly went to a demonstration wearing a tee shirt that especially resisted the defendant’s activities, wasn’t true when these issues were addressed by the court. This could well have caused the court to excuse the juror for cause, or let the defense that the right to use a peremptory challenge to remove the juror.
Bianchi then increased several tantalizing what-ifs:
Throughout this trial I have been worried about many issues regarding the defendant’s right to find a reasonable trial. No person should be . I frequently explained in the press which as a prosecutor, I not won the case at trial but also on appeal, too.
This development should bring about the courtroom calling that the juror into look for an explanation of this significant and important disagreements between his statements to the courtroom during jury selection versus what is currently being unearthed. I wonder, if such an inquiry occurs, whether the juror might refuse to answer the court’s concerns by asserting his 5th Amendment right to remain silent — because his statements to the courtroom in jury selection were made under oath.
If this were to occur, then the Derek Chauvin conviction may be a toss up on charm.
“A complex street for the defense,” explained New Jersey criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Mike Koribanics. “We all have our own feelings and beliefs. As a juror you need to answer really the question: Would you set your own personal beliefs aside and decide the case based on the evidence presented? The defense, in my perception, would need to demonstrate that those personal beliefs were set forth through deliberations and affected the verdict”
“You might have heard things about the case… it is fine to get read about it. It is difficult to prevent. It is okay to even form opinions based on everything you have seen and heard. However, as a juror, you need to set everything aside. Decide this proof just the signs you hear in the courtroom. Essentially, make a blank background, and use the law as I give it to you. Do you think you could do this?”
“For certain,” Mitchell stated.
Watch Mitchell’s complete voir dire below:
[Picture through the Law&Crime Network.]
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