That’s based on a since-deleted Facebook photo uncovered by the International Business Times. The picture raises serious legal concerns of juror prejudice which will almost surely be the topic of new court arguments and likely future court hearings from Chauvin’s case. Yet the legal area is split as to whether the resurfaced photo is enough to change the results of Chauvin’s trial — in part since all of the surrounding facts aren’t yet known and since the law puts a large premium on a juror’s promise to put aside preconceived opinions about cases.
The picture, posted by relative Travis Mitchell on August 31, 2020, shows juror Brandon Mitchell”active[ly] representing” in Washington, D.C. across the time of this so-called”Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march on Aug. 28. The philosopher has been described elsewhere as”a day of actions [to] demonstrate our dedication to fighting policing and criminal justice” and also an effort to exploit the motion which”has risen up since the police killing of George Floyd.” It was first scheduled to coincide with the 57th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s”I Have a Dream” speech.
Especially, Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson just motioned for a new trial. He alleged jury misconduct without going in to detail and did not mention that the issue we now discuss (though that will change).
Brandon Mitchell, known during jury selection since Juror 52, has been the only juror who returned a verdict to speak out publicly about the case (the other was another ). He’s been vocal about the proceedings which could end with Chauvin receiving a potential 40-year sentence.
When asked about the t-shirt he wore to Washington, D.C., Mitchell told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he’d”never been” to the country’s funding and attended the event”to be approximately thousands and thousands of Black individuals.”
“I just thought it was a good chance to be part of something,” Mitchell continued. When asked by the newspaper whether the event has been a”march for [George] Floyd,” Mitchell stated it was”100 percent not,” then mentioned the historic importance of the date of this rally. The newspaper said Mitchell believed the event to really have a meaning”beyond” that the Chauvin situation (with its paraphrase, not his direct quote). It also”served as a rallying point for its George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a federal police reform announcement,” the newspaper added.
Despite his admitted attendance at the event wearing a slogan which entered the national lexicon after Floyd’s death, Mitchell stated he replied”no” to jury questionnaire prompts which read as follows:
“Did you, or someone near you, take part in any of those demonstrations or marches against police brutality which took place in Minneapolis later George Floyd’s departure?”
The complete questionnaire had other comparable prompts.
“I think I was being really honest, for certain,” Mitchell told the newspaper about the jury selection process, including the questionnaire. “I gave my personal views on what — about the case, on Black Lives Issue”
According to the jury poll’s own provisions, Mitchell’s responses were later required to be submitted under oath. That requirement — because Mitchell’s own oath later signaled — could lead to the tripping of Minnesota’s perjury statute.
Mitchell told another Minnesota publication that he felt”a calling” (for a leader) if he received his jury summons. He also said he was able to put aside his feelings of being dragged over approximately 50 occasions by the Minneapolis Police Department while considering Chauvin’s fate.
Talking to this Law&Crime Network in an earlier interview, Mitchell explained the jury dismissed defense proposals which medication contributed to Floyd’s departure and that the audience gathered at the scene diverted the police from discovering the harshness of Floyd’s state. When asked to respond to then-hypothetical criticism that Chauvin could not have received a Reasonable trial given the large level of pretrial publicity, Mitchell issued a response which had little to do with determining the case based on disputed points of law (e.g., causation) rather than on emotion:
I think that is just completely absurd, just as, um, as soon as you’re in the courtroom, and you are there, and you are a human being and you are watching somebody expire to a day to day basis, the strain and the psychological draining, along with the mental — the mental drainage that which causes, um, you do not think of anything going on outside of there. You’re now engulfed in — in watching these movies and hearing this distress and this annoyance. Um, you’ve got compassion for this individual that is on — that is on these videos. You’re feeling for them. You’re not always thinking of, uh, you knowthe ramifications of what might happen, you know, oh — if you proceed this way, should you move that way — you are not thinking about that as you are watching a person die every single moment. That’s what you are watching. I mean — you feel because of that. You are feeling because of that. You just need to do what’s at this point.
The legal area is split as to whether Mitchell’s attendance at the rally along with his subsequent wearing of this t-shirt bearing the”Get Your Brain Off Our Necks” motto is enough to lead to a victory for Chauvin — assuming his lawyers raise the situation.
Under the Sixth Amendment, defendants have a constitutional right to be tried by an”impartial jury.” A collection of U.S. Supreme Court cases have at times pondered the parameters of that which”impartiality” means.
“It’s a state of mind. For the ascertainment of this mental approach of appropriate indifference, the Constitution lays down no special tests and process is not chained to any ancient and artificial formula.” If so, the Court maintained that government employees weren’t, by the nature of their occupation, inherently biased in the direction of the government prosecutor’s arguments at trial.
Afterwards, in Irvin v. Dowd (1961), the Court turned into a murder conviction and a death sentence following a trial which was position with jury prejudice. That Court explained:
Here the”blueprint of deep and bitter prejudice” shown to be present during the community… was obviously represented in the amount total of this voir dire examination of a vast majority of the jurors eventually put in the jury box. Eight out of the 12 thought petitioner was guilty. With this kind of an opinion permeating his heads, it would be tricky to say that each one might exclude this preconception of remorse against his deliberations. The effect that lurks in an opinion once formed is so consistent that it unconsciously fights detachment from the mental processes of the ordinary person.
Turner v. Louisiana (1965) subsequently quoted Dowd favorably while turning another conviction. Prosecutors procured the conviction at issue through the testimony of two sheriff’s deputies who were tasked with protecting and transporting the sequestered jury which was empaneled to judge the exact same testimony. The deputies both grapple with and openly conversed with the jurors while they were off the rack, and the trial judge could hear nothing of the defense’s ailments. The Supreme Court found a problem with the process (internal citations and quotations omitted):
The requirement that a jury’s verdict must be determined by the evidence developed at the trial belongs to the basic integrity of all that is adopted in the constitutional concept of jury.
[ … ]
The failure to accord an accused a fair hearing violates even the minimal standards of due process.
[ … ]
From the constitutional sense, trial by jury in a criminal case necessarily implies at minimum that the proof acquired from a defendant shall come from the witness stand in a public courtroom where there is full judicial protection of the defendant’s right of confrontation, of cross-examination, and of counsel. What happened in this case worked to subvert these basic guarantees of trial by jury.
More recently, in Smith v. Phillips (1982), the court bemoaned”the human propensity to get self-justification” while suggesting that jurors themselves can’t be trusted to correctly tell their whole stories in a bias probe. The court reasserted in Smith which hearings are needed to ferret out real juror prejudice.
At issue in Smith was whether a juror’s submission of a work application to the prosecutor’s office created a prejudice so powerful that a conviction should be reversed. The Court held — as the above language foretold — which it did not. The court refused to grant a convicted criminal any aid:
[D]ue process does not ask for a new trial every time a juror has been placed in a potentially compromising situation. Were that the principle, few trials are constitutionally acceptable. The safeguards of juror impartiality, such as voir dire and protective directions from the trial judge, aren’t infallible; it’s practically impossible to shield jurors from every contact or influence which may theoretically affect their vote. Such determinations can properly be made at a hearing loss.
The Minnesota Supreme Court in 2007 took significant time in a footnote describing the difference between real bias and implied prejudice in a case which involved a”racially biased” juror. (Implied prejudice is”presumed as a matter of law” because of, e.g., a direct conflict of interest or even a relative between a juror and a defendant.)
It seems legally possible that a hearing on the matter of why Brandon Mitchell’s conduct is impending, yet many criminal defense lawyers who appear frequently as guests or hosts in the Law&Crime Network appeared to imply that a win for Chauvin seems unlikely.
Defense lawyer Linda Kenney Baden noted at the first voir dire question restricted its reach to protests”in Minneapolis.” So, 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 require a little more probing, given the D.C. rally’s most themes.
Overall, the photograph and the following uproar”can make juror seem disingenuous, and the judge is not likely to be more pleased,” Kenney Baden stated. “However, in my estimation, it will not overturn the verdict.”
New York City public defender Brian Buckmire concurred that more factual evaluation has been necessary.
“He [Mitchell] describes that he attended for voting rights, however he was aware of others hinting George Floyd,” Buckmire explained. “As someone who has attended protests, I am not surprised in [a] huge protest that we showed up for one reason while there had been 20 other causes . I don’t find that as a lie.”
Generally speaking, though, Buckmire suggested that the case law mentioned above implies Chauvin’s defense could”need to locate something HUGE to overturn” the verdict according to jury prejudice — such as the Dowd case where eight of the twelve jurors were biased against the nation.
Buckmire was concerned that Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, didn’t probe Mitchell correctly.
“Did he lie?” Buckmire saw as the biggest question any followup hearing or litigation should answer. Then, it must examine what questions Nelson asked; whether Nelson had challenges left which might have been used to attack the juror; and whether the”high standard to overturn the conviction” was fulfilled in this instance.
In certain nations, such as New York, lawyers need to exhaust all of their peremptory challenges until they can appeal a question involving jury prejudice, Buckmire noted.
Former New Jersey county prosecutor and current criminal defense lawyer Bob Bianchi known as the development”very severe and troubling” since the juror wore a t-shirt which condemned the activities of the defendant that juror was finally called to judge:
The prosecution has a great deal of job to do to convince an appeals court that not changing venue, not sequestering jurors, having a civil compensation in the center of jury selection, having jurors being exposed to another episode that sparked protests during the trial, along with a important medical/blood gas record being withheld all failed to influence the jurors’ decisions in Chauvin’s situation. However, these disagreements were somewhat insecure till today.
This development with this juror is a lot more tangible, and on a matter of significance — prejudice against the police, and Chauvin particularly. When combined with other problematic issues regarding how this case has been handled, it might have a cumulative effect of persuasive an appellate court that the conviction of Chauvin should be reversed.
The questions to the jurors were specially made to ferret out bias. They were specifically asked about demonstrations attended, BLM, and remarks formed about the situation. The court regularly repeated that it had no reason to disbelieve the juror responses. But now, there is reason to believe that a juror, who previously went to a demonstration sporting a tee shirt which especially condemned the defendant’s actions, wasn’t true when these issues were addressed by the court.
Bianchi then raised several devious what-ifs:
Throughout this trial I have been concerned about many issues about the defendant’s right to find a fair trial. No individual should be . I often explained in the media that as a prosecutor, I not won the case at trial but also on appeal, too.
This development should lead to the court calling the juror into look for an explanation of the significant and significant discrepancies between his statements to the court during jury selection versus what’s currently being unearthed. I wonder, if this kind of inquiry occurs, whether the juror might refuse to answer the court’s concerns by claiming his 5th Amendment right to stay silent — since his statements to the court in jury selection were made under oath.
If that were to happen, the Derek Chauvin conviction might be a throw up on charm.
“A complex street for its defense,” explained New Jersey criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor Mike Koribanics. “All of us have our own beliefs and feelings. The defense, in my perception, would need to demonstrate that those private beliefs were put forth through deliberations and affected the verdict.”
“You may have heard things about the case… it’s fine to have read concerning it. It is tough to avoid. It is okay to even form opinions based on everything you have heard and seen. But as a juror, you have to put everything aside. Decide this proof just the proof you hear from the courtroom. Essentially, be a blank slate, and apply the law as I give this to youpersonally. Do you feel you can do that?”
“For certain,” Mitchell stated.
Watch Mitchell’s entire voir dire under:
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