A juror in the trial of Derek Chauvin has defended his attendance at the anniversary of the March on Washington in DC and a social media post in which a t-shirt could be seen as a statement of support for George Floyd.
The surfaced post has stirred online speculation about juror 52’s motivations for wanting to be on the jury and has some thinking it could be an important part of Chauvin’s appeal process.
While speaking to the media last week, Brandon Mitchell revealed that before the trial, prospective jurors had to fill out a form to allow the prosecution and the defence teams to choose the jurors who would approach the case in the least biased way.
The juror said on the questionnaire that he wanted to be a part of the trial as it was likely going to be the most “historic” case of his lifetime.
In a Facebook post by Travis Mitchell from 31 August, Brandon Mitchell can be seen in a t-shirt with an image of Martin Luther King and the words “Get your knee off our necks,” and “BLM”, which is short for Black Lives Matter, on the front. Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The existence of the post was first reported by the International Business Times.
Mr Mitchell was one of the 12 jurors who convicted Chauvin two weeks ago on all three charges, including second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The juror told the Minneapolis Star Tribune about his DC visit: “I’d never been to [Washington] DC. The opportunity to go to DC, the opportunity to be around thousands and thousands of Black people, I just thought it was a good opportunity to be a part of something.”
Joseph Daly, professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, told the paper: “If [Mr Mitchell] specifically was asked, ‘Have you ever participated in a Black Lives Matter demonstration,’ and he answered, ‘No,’ to that, I think that would be an important appealable issue.”
Mr Mitchell said the Facebook post was made by his uncle, the father of one of the two cousins pictured with Mr Mitchell in the post. He said he doesn’t remember wearing or owning the shirt in the image, according to the Star Tribune.
The juror told the paper that the march on 28 August 2020 was a commemoration of the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington which took place on 28 August 1963.
Mr Mitchell told the paper the march was “100 percent not” an event in support of Mr Floyd. He said: “It was directly related to MLK’s March on Washington from the ‘60s… The date of the March on Washington is the date.”
The 2020 march pushed for racial justice, boosting voter registration, a new version of the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, and encouraged people to take part in the 2020 census. The march also took on the issue of police brutality. Family members of some who had been shot by police spoke to the crowd, including Philonise and Bridgett Floyd, the brother and sister of George Floyd. The march also boosted federal police reform legislation, specifically the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Two questions on the questionnaire sent out before the jury was selected asked about participation in demonstrations. Mr Mitchell said he answered “no” to both of the questions.
The first question about demonstrations was: “Did you, or someone close to you, participate in any of the demonstrations or marches against police brutality that took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death?”
The second question asked: “Other than what you have already described above, have you, or anyone close to you, participated in protests about police use of force or police brutality?”
Mr Mitchell said he wasn’t worried about experiencing any backlash for taking part in the March on Washington as it had major significance beyond Chauvin’s case.
He said of the march: “This was a big deal. It’s a national thing.”
Mr Mitchell said he was “extremely honest” during the jury selection process, adding: “I gave my views on everything. On the case, on Black Lives Matter.”
During the jury selection, Chauvin’s defence lawyer Eric Nelson was told by Mr Mitchell that he had seen video footage of the incident, that he had spoken about the case with his family and friends, that he had wondered why the other officers didn’t stop Chauvin, and that his view of Black Lives Matter was “very favourable”.
He also told the defence attorney that some police officers at Mr Mitchell’s gym were “great guys”. He said he had neutral feelings towards the pro-police group “Blue Lives Matter,” and that he could be neutral during the trial.
Defence attorney Mike Padden, who is not a part of the Chauvin case, told the Star Tribune that Mr Mitchell should have revealed that he took part in the march.
He said: “It’s disconcerting. Maybe with that disclosure, Mr Nelson keeps him on the jury, but I don’t think so.”
The Independent has reached out to Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, for comment.