One of the jurors who served on the jury that returned a guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd defended his attendance of a Black Lives Matter protest before the trial.
Brandon Mitchell said he participated in the August 28 event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered during the 1963 March on Washington, according to the Associated Press.
Mitchell claimed that his reason for attending was that he’d never visited Washington, D.C. before. “I’d never been to D.C.,” he said. “The opportunity to go to D.C., 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.”
A photo circulating on social media depicted Mitchell sporting a Black Lives Matter shirt featuring a picture of King and the phrase, “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks!,” at the protest. Mitchell admitted that he was present at the event.
Speakers at the demonstration included family members of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Eric Garner, who were all involved in fatal altercations with law enforcement officers, according to a schedule of the event.
Mitchell was one of 12 jurors who convicted Chauvin of all counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
A form sent to prospective jurors before selection included two questions pertaining to demonstrations. Mitchell said he responded “no” to both.
The first question asked: “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?”
Mitchell said during jury selection that he had a “very favorable” view of Black Lives Matter. He also mentioned that he knew some police officers at his gym who are “great guys,” and that he felt neutral about Blue Lives Matter, a pro-police organization.
“I think I was being extremely honest, for sure,” Mitchell told the Star Tribune. “I gave my views on everything — on the case, on Black Lives Matter.”
Mitchell’s past protest activity could be used as grounds for an appeal that Chauvin’s constitutional right to an impartial jury was violated, Ted Sampsell-Jones, a Mitchell Hamline School of Law professor, told the Associated Press.
“Speaking frankly, Chauvin did not have a fully impartial jury in the sense we usually give criminal defendants,” Sampsell-Jones remarked, according to the Associated Press. “That wasn’t the fault of the judge or the prosecutors, it was simply a function of the incredible publicity and public pressure.”