Activists have called the striking of a prospective Black juror who once lived in the neighbourhood where George Floyd was arrested a “huge slap in the face”.
Under questioning during jury selection in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, Juror number 76 was struck by the defence. He said he had personal reasons for wanting to serve on the jury.
“Because me, as a Black man, you see a lot of Black people get killed and no one’s held accountable for it, and you wonder why or what was the decision,” the juror said.
He added: “So, with this, maybe I’ll be in the room to know why.”
Mr Floyd was declared dead last May after Mr Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Mr Floyd’s neck for around nine minutes while he was face-down on the ground and handcuffed.
The man said he could put his personal feelings aside and said he felt he could weigh the evidence fairly.
Defence attorney Eric Nelson used one of his peremptory strikes, which was not challenged, to dismiss the man from the jury, after trying and failing to have him struck “for cause”.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and head of a community activism organisation called Wayfinder Foundation, called the exclusion a “huge slap in the face”.
“We have a Black man who was probably in the best position to judge the case being excluded,” she said, arguing the exclusion “just underscores why people believe there is systemic racism at work within these judicial processes”.
Twelve of 14 required jurors were selected by Thursday for the trial of Mr Chauvin. The racial makeup of the jury is so far evenly split. Six of the jurors are white, four are Black, and two are multiracial, according to the court.
Alan Turkheimer, a Chicago-based jury consultant, said he was not surprised the defence would try to keep someone with personal experience from the jury.
“Sometimes people just can’t be fair, even if they don’t know it,” he said. “It’s so ingrained. It’s so hard to shake something like that.”
He added that questioning, and ultimately striking, prospective jurors based on their experiences provides a “built-in advantage for police officers”.
Jaylani Hussein, a local activist and executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “It’s a horrible, racist thought process: We have to stop people who may get angry, you know the angry Black man or angry Black woman, from getting into the jury because they won’t take this seriously.”
Reporting by the Associated Press