With striking of Black juror, Floyd activists see racism

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In this screen grab from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, defendant and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, and Nelson's assistant Amy Voss, back, introduce themselves to jurors as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill presides over jury selection in the trial of Chauvin Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS – A prospective juror who once lived in the neighborhood where George Floyd was arrested told the attorney for an ex-officer charged in Floyd's death that he had a personal reason 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 decisions,” Juror No. 76 said under questioning during jury selection in Derek Chauvin's murder trial. “So, with this, maybe I’ll be in the room to know why.”

But the man won’t be in the room. Even though he said he felt he could weigh the evidence fairly, he was struck by the defense. It was an illustration of how difficult it can be for people who say they have personal experience with police misconduct to make it onto juries that hold them accountable.

“We have a Black man who was probably in the best position to judge the case being excluded,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and head of a community activism organization called Wayfinder Foundation.

The man said he experiences daily racism, and he strongly agreed that police are more likely to respond with force on Black people than on white people. Levy Armstrong called the juror's exclusion a “huge slap in the face” that “just underscores why people believe there is systemic racism at work within these judicial processes.”

Jury selection in Chauvin's case is nearly complete, with 12 of 14 required jurors selected by Thursday. So far, the racial makeup of the jury is evenly split; six of the jurors are white, four are Black, and two are multiracial, according to the court.

Floyd was declared dead last May after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the Black man's neck for around nine minutes while he was face-down on the ground and handcuffed. Floyd pleaded for air several times and eventually grew still.

But local activists like Levy Armstrong say that police brutality was rampant long before Floyd 's death.