Opening statements in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, begin today, March 29th, at 10 a.m. ET. Opening statements are expected to last several days, and the trial itself could last anywhere from two to four weeks, per CBS News.
The trial will be broadcast on several television stations, including Court TV and HLN. It will also be streaming on services like Law & Crime and YouTube.
Jury selection was finalized last Tuesday, March 23rd. The panel includes 15 jurors, 12 of whom will deliberate, with two alternates and one extra juror, who will be dismissed when opening statements begin if the other 14 are capable of serving. According to the court, the jury is made up of eight white people, four black people and two who are multiracial; nine are women, five are men, and their ages range from 20 to 60 years old.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, as well as a third-degree murder charge. The latter charge was added March 11th after a ruling in a different case established new grounds for it. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Per the Minneapolis Star Tribune, jury selection was supposed to start Monday, March 8th, but it was delayed for at least a day so the court could decide whether or not to add a third-degree murder charge, after an appeals court overruled a lower court’s decision to dismiss it. As CNN reports, the jury selection process could take up to three weeks, and it will likely be one of the most contentious and tense aspects of what’s already expected to be a contentious and tense trial.
When jury selection began, the goal, as in all cases, was to find 16 people (12 jurors and four alternates) who could be impartial and open to both evidence and the law. Of course, that task will be complicated by the fact that Floyd’s death was one of the most publicized instances of police violence, with a bystander capturing Floyd’s death and his pleas for air while Chauvin knelt his neck on video. It began a wave of Black Lives Matter protests, one of the largest civil-rights movements in our country’s history.
Technically, the jury selection process began last December, when prospective jurors were sent a 16-page questionnaire. The questionnaire asked for their thoughts on the protests, policing, and about previous personal interactions with police. They were also asked specifics about their knowledge of the case, including how many times they viewed the video of Floyd’s death, and if they’d ever shared their thoughts about it on social media. Prospective jurors also faced similar questions in court, first from the judge, then the defense and prosecution.
Both the defense and prosecution had the ability to dismiss any potential juror if they believed the person could not be impartial. Some jurors were also be dismissed without cause (known as a “peremptory challenge”), though Chauvin’s lawyers were only able to do this 15 times, and the prosecution just nine.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Editor’s Note: Previous versions of this story were published March 8th, 11th and 23rd.