A juror in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, participated in last summer’s March on Washington, a move that is coming under scrutiny after Chauvin’s attorney requested a new trial on several grounds, including juror misconduct.
The attorney, Eric Nelson, did not refer to the juror’s participation in the march in his request for a new trial Tuesday. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May 25.
In a photo from last August’s “commitment” march that surfaced recently, the juror, Brandon Mitchell, who is Black, is seen wearing a T-shirt with an image of Martin Luther King Jr. and the phrase, “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” the name of the march itself.
In the photo, he is smiling alongside two men and wearing a hat that said “BLM,” for Black Lives Matter.
Mitchell did not respond to requests for comment, but he has defended his participation in the march, which was held on the 57th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the first March on Washington. Mitchell told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he did not view the march as being against police brutality and that it was “100 percent not” a rally for Floyd.
“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,” he told the newspaper.
Some have speculated that Mitchell’s participation in the march could be grounds for an appeal, but legal experts said it was unlikely that it alone would be enough to overturn Chauvin’s conviction.
“It’s certainly possible that this will be used to support various post-conviction efforts, of which one is an appeal,” said Dmitriy Shakhnevich, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “At the end of the day, irrespective of his specific comments, there would have to be a showing that, had he not served on the jury or disclosed this information, the verdict would have been different.”
“And that’s a very high standard to meet,” added Shakhnevich, who closely followed the trial.
However, it is possible Mitchell and other jurors could be questioned during what is called a Schwartz hearing to determine whether an outside influence prejudiced the jury.
Mitchell said that the photo was originally posted on social media by his uncle around the Aug. 28 march, and that the two men next to Mitchell in the photo are his cousins.
Mitchell said he has no recollection of wearing or owning the shirt.
Floyd’s brother and sister, Philonise and Bridgett Floyd, spoke at the march in Washington last summer, as did the relatives of others who had been shot by police.
Nelson and John Stiles, a spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, declined to comment on the photo.
Mitchell, a youth basketball coach, was the first juror to go public about the trial and the deliberations. He has said that before the trial, he had never watched the bystander video of Floyd’s deadly encounter with Minneapolis police in its entirety because “it was too gruesome.”
Mitchell told The Star Tribune that he had answered “no” to two questions on a questionnaire for potential jurors. The first asked whether he or someone close to him had participated in any of the…