Legal Debate Rages Over Derek Chauvin Juror’s’Get Your Knee Off Our Necks’ T-Shirt, Attendance at BLM Rally Prior to Trial
That’s 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 discussions and likely future court hearings in Chauvin’s case. However the legal area is split as to whether the resurfaced photo is enough to change the results of Chauvin’s trial — in part since each the surrounding facts are not yet known and since the law places a large premium on a juror’s promise to put aside preconceived opinions about cases.
The philosopher has been described elsewhere as”a day of action [to] demonstrate our dedication to fighting for policing and criminal justice” and an effort to harness the movement which”has risen upwards since the police killing of George Floyd.” It was scheduled to coincide with the 57th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s”I Have a Dream” speech.
Notably, Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson just opting to get a fresh trial. He even alleged jury misconduct without going into detail and didn’t mention that the issue we now discuss (though that will change).
Brandon Mitchell, known during jury selection since Juror 52, has become the sole juror who actually returned a verdict to speak out publicly about the case (another was another ). 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 informed the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he’d”been” to the country’s funds and attended the occasion”to be approximately thousands and thousands of Black people.”
“I only thought it was a fantastic chance to be a part of some thing,” Mitchell continued. When asked by the paper whether the occasion was a”march for [George] Floyd,” Mitchell stated it was”100 percent perhaps not,” then noted that the historical importance of the date of the rally. The paper said Mitchell considered the event to have a sense”outside” that the Chauvin situation (using its paraphrase, not his direct quote). The Star-Tribune additional mentioned that George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, and also his sister, Bridgett, spoke at the event.
Despite his declared attendance at the event sporting a motto which only entered the national lexicon after Floyd’s death, Mitchell stated he replied”no” to prosecution questionnaire prompts that read as follows:
“Did you, or someone close to you, take part in any of the demonstrations or marches against police brutality which took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death?”
The full questionnaire had other comparable prompts.
“I think I was being extremely frank, for sure,” Mitchell told the paper about the jury selection process, including the questionnaire. “I gave my personal views on everything — about the instance, on Black Lives Matter.”
According to the jury questionnaire’s own provisions, Mitchell’s answers were later required to be submitted under oath. That requirement — since Mitchell’s very own oath later signaled — could bring about the tripping of Minnesota’s perjury statute.
Mitchell told the other Minnesota publication that he believed”a calling” (for a leader) when he received his jury summons. He also said he was able to set aside his feelings of being dragged over about 50 occasions by the Minneapolis Police Department while considering Chauvin’s destiny.
Talking to the Law&Crime Network within an earlier interview, Mitchell said the jury dismissed defense suggestions which drugs led to Floyd’s death and that the crowd gathered at the scene distracted the police from discovering the harshness of Floyd’s condition. When asked to respond to then-hypothetical criticism that Chauvin could not have received a Reasonable trial given the large degree of pretrial publicity, Mitchell issued an answer that had little to do with determining the case based on contested points of law (e.g., causation) rather than on emotion:
I think that is just completely ridiculous, just as, um, as soon as you’re in the court, and you’re there, and you’re a human being and you’re watching somebody expire on a day to day basis, the stress and the emotional draining, and the psychological — the psychological drainage which that causes, um, you don’t think of anything happening outside of there. You are now engulfed in — at seeing these movies and hearing this distress and this pain. Um, you have compassion for this individual that’s on — that is on these videos. You are feeling . You are not necessarily thinking of, uh, you knowthe consequences of what may happen, you realize, oh — if you go this way, should you move this way — you’re not considering that since you’re seeing someone die every single day. That’s what you’re watching. I mean — you feel because of that. You feel because of that. You only need to do what is right at that point.
The legal area is split as to whether Mitchell’s attendance at the rally and his subsequent wearing of the t-shirt bearing the”Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” slogan is enough to lead to a triumph for Chauvin — assuming his lawyers raise the situation.
A group of U.S. Supreme Court cases have at times pondered the parameters of what”impartiality” means.
“Impartiality is not a technical conception,” the Court stated in United States v. Wood (1936). “It is a state of mind. For the ascertainment of this psychological attitude of appropriate indifference, the Constitution lays down no particular tests and process is not chained to any historical and artificial formula.” If that’s the case, the Court held that government employees were not, from the character of their employment, inherently biased towards the government prosecutor’s arguments at trial.
That Court said:
The”pattern of deep and bitter prejudice” revealed to be found during the community… was clearly reflected in the amount total of this voir dire examination of a majority of the jurors finally placed in the jury box. Eight out of the 12 thought petitioner was guilty. With such an opinion permeating their heads, it would be tricky to state that each one could exclude this preconception of remorse against his deliberations. The effect that lurks within an opinion once formed is so persistent that it unconsciously fights detachment from the psychological processes of the normal person.
Turner v. Louisiana (1965) subsequently quoted Dowd favorably while turning another certainty. Prosecutors secured the conviction at issue through the testimony of two sheriff’s deputies who were also tasked with protecting and hauling the sequestered jury that was empaneled to estimate that very same testimony. The deputies both mingled together and openly conversed with the jurors while they have been away from the rack, and also the trial judge would hear nothing of the defense’s complaints. The Supreme Court saw a problem with the process (internal citations and quotations omitted):
The requirement that a jury’s verdict must be based upon the evidence developed at the trial goes to the basic integrity of all that is adopted in the inherent concept of trial by jury.
[ … ]
Basically, the right to jury trial guarantees to the criminally accused a fair trial by a panel of impartial, indifferent jurors. The failure to accord an accused a fair hearing violates even the minimal standards of due process.
[ … ]
What happened in this case managed to subvert these basic guarantees of trial by jury.
More recently, in Smith v. Phillips (1982), the court bemoaned”the individual propensity for self-justification” while indicating that jurors themselves cannot be trusted to accurately tell their entire stories in a bias probe. The court reasserted at Smith which hearings are necessary to ferret out actual juror prejudice.
At issue in Smith was whether a juror’s submission of a job application to the prosecutor’s office produced a prejudice so powerful that a conviction ought to be reversed. The Court held as the above language foretold — which it didn’t. The court refused to grant a convicted criminal any aid:
[D]ue process doesn’t ask for a new trial every time a juror has been placed in a potentially compromising situation. Were that the rule, few trials are constitutionally acceptable. The defenses of juror impartiality, like voir dire and protective directions from the trial judge, are not infallible; it is 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 occurrences when they occur. Such determinations can properly be produced at a hearing.
The Minnesota Supreme Court in 2007 took considerable time at a footnote explaining the gap 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,” and also the juror”may sit on the prosecution if he or she agrees to put aside any preconceived notions and make a determination based on the evidence and the court’s directions.” (Implied prejudice is”presumed as a matter of law” due to, e.g., an immediate conflict of interest or even a relative between a juror and a suspect.)
It seems legally probable that a hearing on the situation of Brandon Mitchell’s conduct is imminent, yet several criminal defense lawyers who appear frequently as hosts or guests on the Law&Crime Network appeared to indicate that a triumph for Chauvin seems improbable.
Defense lawyer Linda Kenney Baden reported at the initial voir dire query limited its reach to protests”at Minneapolis.” Therefore, Mitchell’s proffered answer,”no,” was completely adequate — since the collecting 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 topics.
Overall, the photo and the subsequent uproar”will make juror appear neater, and the estimate is not likely to be happy,” Kenney Baden stated. “Butin my estimation, it will not overturn the verdict.”
New York City public defender Brian Buckmire agreed that the more factual evaluation was necessary.
“He [Mitchell] clarifies that he attended for voting rights, however he was aware of the other people protesting George Floyd,” Buckmire said. “As someone who has attended protests, I am not surprised at [a] huge demonstration that we showed up for one cause while there have been 20 other causes . I don’t see this as a lie.”
Broadly speaking, though, Buckmire suggested that the case law cited above implies Chauvin’s defense would”have to locate something HUGE to overturn” the verdict based on jury prejudice — such as the Dowd case where eight of the twelve jurors were biased against the state.
Buckmire was also concerned that Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, did not probe Mitchell properly.
Buckmire saw as the largest question any follow-up hearing or lawsuit should answer. Afterward, it must examine what queries Nelson asked; whether Nelson had challenges left that could have been used to attack the juror; and whether the”top benchmark to subdue the conviction” was fulfilled in this instance.
In certain countries, for example New York, lawyers must exhaust all their peremptory challenges before they can appeal a query involving jury prejudice, Buckmire mentioned.
Former New Jersey county prosecutor and present criminal defense lawyer Bob Bianchi known as the development”quite severe and troubling” since the juror wore a t-shirt which resisted the actions of the suspect that juror was finally called to gauge:
The prosecution has a great deal of job to do to convince an appeals court rather than changing venue, not sequestering jurors, having a civil settlement in the middle of jury selection, having jurors being exposed to another episode which sparked protests throughout the trial, and also a essential medical/blood gas record being withheld all did not impact the jurors’ decisions in Chauvin’s situation. But, these arguments were somewhat insecure until today.
This development for this juror is far more concrete, and on a matter of significance — prejudice against the authorities, and Chauvin particularly. When coupled with other debatable issues about how this case was handled, it could have a cumulative effect of persuasive an appellate court that the certainty of Chauvin ought to be reversed.
The queries to the jurors were especially tailored to ferret out bias. They were specifically asked about demonstrations attended, BLM, and opinions formed about the case. The court often repeated that it had no reason to disbelieve the juror answers. But now, there’s reason to believe a juror, who previously went to a demonstration wearing a tee shirt which specifically condemned the suspect’s actions, wasn’t accurate when these difficulties were addressed by the court. This may well have caused the court to excuse the juror for cause, or allowed the defense that the right to use a peremptory challenge to remove the juror.
Bianchi then raised several devious what-ifs:
Throughout this trial I have been worried about many issues regarding the suspect’s right to get a fair trial. No individual ought to be against that. I frequently said in the media this as a prosecutor, I not won the case at trial but also on appeal, also.
This growth should bring about the courtroom calling the juror into find an explanation of their important and significant connections between his statements to the courtroom during jury selection versus what is currently being unearthed. I wonder, even if this kind of inquiry happens, whether the juror might refuse to answer the court’s concerns by asserting his 5th Amendment right to remain silent — since his statements to the courtroom in jury selection were made under oath.
If this were to happen, then the Derek Chauvin conviction may be a throw up on charm.
“A complex road for its defense,” said New Jersey criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor Mike Koribanics. “We all have our own feelings and beliefs. The shield, in my perception, would have to demonstrate that those private beliefs were set forth during deliberations and influenced the verdict.”
“You may have heard things about the case… it’s fine to get read about it. It’s hard to avoid. It’s okay to form opinions based on everything you have heard and seen. However, as a juror, you must set all that aside. Pick this proof only the signs you hear in the court. Essentially, make a blank slate, and apply the law as I give it to you. Do you feel that can do this?”
“For sure,” Mitchell stated.
Watch Mitchell’s complete voir dire under: