George Floyd : Jury selection begins for court case of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin

Derek Chauvin (right) is under trial over George Floyd's death (who is pictured on the left) Credit: Twitter/AP

Lawyers are beginning to carefully pick jurors for the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd.

Chauvin is facing second-degree murder and manslaughter charges after being seen with his knee on Mr Floyd's neck in Minneapolis as the black man said he could not breathe.

Mr Floyd died on May 25 last year. His death sparked sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the US, with similar protests being staged in the days and weeks later across the globe.

Chavin's fate will be decided by 12 Hennepin County, Minnesota, residents who will be selected after they are questioned about their views on police and the justice system.

The selection process, which begins on Monday, is expected to take at least three weeks.

A statue of Edward Colston was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bristol in June. Credit: PA

How impartial can jurors be?

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued it would be impossible to find an impartial jury due to the pretrial publicity of the case. But Judge Peter Cahill said last year that delaying the trial would not solve the issue because “no corner of the State of Minnesota” has been shielded from the press coverage.

Former prosecutor Susan Gaertner said: “You don’t want jurors who are completely blank slates, because that would mean they’re not in tune at all with the world.

"But what you want is jurors who can set aside opinions that have formed prior to walking into the courtroom and give both sides a fair hearing."

Even if a juror has had a negative experience with police or a negative opinion about Black Lives Matter, the key will be trying to find out whether they can put those past experiences or opinions aside, Mike Brandt, a local defence attorney said.

How will jurors be chosen?

Potential jurors - who must be at least 18, US citizens and residents of Hennepin County -were sent questionnaires to determine how much they have heard about the case and whether they have formed any opinions.

They were also asked about any contacts they have with police, whether they have protested against police brutality and whether they believe the justice system is fair. Specific questions include how often potential jurors have watched the video of Mr Floyd's arrest and whether they carried a sign at a protest and what that sign said.

Unlike usual jury selection proceedings, the candidates will be questioned one by one instead of in a group. The judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers will get to ask questions.

There could be some "tortured questioning", local defence attorney Mr Brandt said.

The defence can object to up to 15 potential jurors without giving a reason, and prosecutors can object to up to nine. But the other side can object to these challenges if they believe the sole reason for disqualifying a juror is race or gender.

There is no limit to the number of potential jurors any side wants to dismiss, providing there is a reason. It is ultimately up to the judge to decide whether a juror stays or goes.

The selection process will end once 14 people have been picked - 12 jurors, and two back-up jurors. The earliest opening statements will begin is March 29.

A number of Black Lives Matters protests took place in the summer

What happened last year?

Mr Floyd died on May 25 last year after he was arrested by police in Minneapolis. Four police officers were involved in the arrest.

A witness filmed the arrest, and the footage showed Mr Floyd pleading with officers that he could not breathe as Chauvin appeared to kneel on his neck.

Chauvin and the three other officers were fired. The others face a trial in August on aiding and abetting charges.

George Floyd’s family also filed a civil rights lawsuit last summer against the four officers and the city of Minneapolis.

Black Lives Matter protests

The video triggered wider anger over police killings of black people, reigniting the Black Lives Matter movement, which began in 2013.

Protests erupted across the country and beyond, including the UK. Many of these protests were peaceful, but some in the US turned violent, leading to mayors of many US cities bringing in curfews.

In the UK, some protesters removed statues of historic figures connected to the slave trade. In Bristol, Black Lives Matter protesters knocked down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and temporarily replaced it with a sculpture of a protester.

There were also clashes between UK police and far-right protesters, who claimed they were protecting statues.

Philonise Floyd as he describes the pain of losing his brother during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Change in the US

Mr Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, said “his death has sparked unity” and is changing people’s lives.

In Washington, then President Donald Trump sent tweets ridiculing protesters outside the White House.

In spite of this, the former US president signed an executive order on policing in June to encourage better practices and establish a database to keep track of officers with a history of excessive use-of-force complaints.

The US President said that, under a new credentialing process, chokeholds will be banned "except if an officer’s life is at risk". Chokeholds are already largely banned in police departments nationwide.