Like most jurors, they had been randomly plucked in their community to perform a civic duty. But the panel selected to determine the fate of former police officer Derek Chauvin at the death of George Floyd entered a Minneapolis court this week facing one big difference: The weight of the nation is on these.
While their faces and names are being closely guarded by the court, the anonymous jury is constituted of a bunch of largely college-educated individuals from diverse professional and racial backgrounds. They will be required to set aside their personal biases and achieve a unanimous decision on Chauvin's guilt or innocence based solely on the evidence they are presented with in the first important U.S. criminal case held through the coronavirus pandemic.
Picked within an 11-day procedure from a prospective jury pool of 326 randomly selected citizens of Hennepin County, Minnesota, the 14 jurors, such as two yet-to-be designated alternates, might need to stay emotionally strong to endure what's been heart-wrenching testimony.
Despite powerful video evidence from many angles showing Floyd's life fading away under Chauvin's knee pressed the back of his throat, legal experts said the jurors will also need to be intellectually skillful to decode a mountain of medical evidence that has resulted in opposing interpretations of exactly what killed Floyd, a 46-year-old Black guy. Can it be Chauvin's knee grinding into Floyd's throat as the prosecution claims, or was it a mix of factors, including heart disease along with the ingestion of medication, the defense states killed Floyd?
"I consider myself a fairly logical individual," a chemist, the first picked member of the panel, said during jury selection questioning. "I rely on facts and logic and what is in front of me. Opinion and facts are important distinctions for me personally."
Another juror, the niece of a police officer, said she had been"super excited" to be on the situation, calling it"a very important circumstance, not just for Hennepin County but nationwide."
"It's just something everyone's heard about, spoke about. No matter the decision, folks are still going to talk about it," she said during jury selection.
The Chauvin trial jury consists of eight individuals that are white and six who identify as people of color, including four who are Black. They vary in age from their early 20s to 60.
"The diversity of the jury is much more diverse than that of this county, state and city. So that is enormous," explained Brian Buckmire, a New York City public protector and an ABC News legal contributor.
Among the panel are a tax auditor, an executive for a nonprofit medical care company, a grandmother with an undergraduate diploma in youth psychology, a banker, an information technology manager who speaks multiple languages and a motorcycle-riding executive assistant.
Other members of the jury include a 20-something social worker and a critical-care nurse.
"The one that sticks out to me is a critical care nurse. In my mind, I am thinking there are three people who the jury will look to find answers: the prosecutor, the defense along with her," Buckmire explained. "I wouldn't be surprised when we find out six months, 12 months down the street once this instance is completed which you hear jurors tended to look toward her for information regarding cause of death, manner of death or even instances of death by drugs or death by knee.
He said that the prosecution can also be representative of the panels being chosen throughout the country during the pandemic, together with associates tending to become higher-educated individuals with professional backgrounds instead of those selected prior to the contagion, which caused most courts to be closed down for weeks beneath stay-at-home orders.
"You've got to remember, it's been a year that lots of individuals have been off of work," Buckmire explained. "The men and women that are functioning, are working tasks where you can work at home. We're going to probably see, not just in this trial but in all trials around the country, higher-educated people picked to be more jurors on trials since economically they haven't been affected as much as other individuals."
The Chauvin trial, which began with opening statements Monday, is expected to last four months. Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill has informed the jurors that they will be sequestered in a hotel during deliberations.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree accidental murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.
During jury selection, a few of the jurors chosen said they wholeheartedly support authorities, while some said they believe that racial inequality exists in the justice system. Some said they supported the Black Lives Matter movement that prompted nationwide protests along with a racial reckoning in the wake of Floyd's passing, while others expressed a negative view of the movement.
Several jurors were chosen despite admitting to having a negative view of Chauvin, in accordance with their jury questionnaires.
Most of the jurors stated during jury selection that they had only seen snippets of a viral bystander movie of what was be Floyd's fatal arrest on May 20, 2020. Only one said he had seen none of the footage.
"It's not peculiar, especially considering you have for-cause challenges and peremptory challenges (from the defense, prosecution and judge), to weed out people who have seen a lot of the video since I don't think, whatever side of the fence you fall, when you watch that movie you have to select a side, or else you are inclined to," Buckmire said. "That makes sense that the jury could be people who saw the least since that is intentional for both prosecution and the defense"