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More About The 14-Page Questionnaire Being Used For Jury Selection In Chauvin Trial


Let's get a sense of what attorneys want to know about potential jurors in the trial of Derek Chauvin. Chauvin is the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd. Jury selection is happening this week, and people who might serve on that jury were sent 14 pages of questions covering everything from views on Black Lives Matter to media habits. Mary Moriarty joins us to discuss this. She spent years as chief public defender for Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis.


MARY MORIARTY: Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: So this form includes questions from prosecution and defense attorneys. When you read through it, how much of it looks to you like the boilerplate stuff you'd expect in any murder trial versus questions particular to this case?

MORIARTY: There are quite a few questions particular to this case, particularly asking about Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter. There's a question that asked if you've ever been put in a chokehold. And so there's a lot of information that they're asking about that's particular to this case, including, have you ever seen the video in this case? That's a little unusual because normally you don't want to draw attention to a particular piece of evidence. But they are asking specifically, have you seen the video? Do you have an opinion? Have you discussed this case with others?

SHAPIRO: And so how much of that is an acknowledgement that this case received so much national and international attention that you are never going to find anyone who has heard nothing about it? That's not realistic.

MORIARTY: I think that's entirely accurate. And as an accused, you do not have a right to have a jury that's heard nothing about your case. The issue is if a potential juror has heard something about the case, can they set aside whatever that is, whatever opinions they might have, and base their decision only on the evidence that they hear in trial and the instructions that the judge gives them? So this questionnaire is an acknowledgement that people do know about this case. And they're really trying to delve into exactly what they know, what they've experienced and whether they already have opinions about what happened here.

SHAPIRO: Every jury questionnaire I've ever seen has questions about law enforcement, but this goes so much more deeply into questions about law enforcement, racial attitudes, protests. I mean, one question asks, if you marched, what did your sign say? Does that suggest that this trial is about more than just Derek Chauvin and George Floyd, that there are much larger issues at play here?

MORIARTY: It's much more than that. I would describe this as our Ferguson. This - the reaction that the country and the world saw after Mr. Floyd's death was about a culmination of protests by activists here, about brutality by the Minneapolis Police Department, about people who had been killed by the Minneapolis Police Department who had faced no accountability. So all of that is context to this trial. It's much more complex than one might think from the outside.

SHAPIRO: You've been following jury selection today. Can you tell how this questionnaire has affected the process?

MORIARTY: I think what's happened this morning is indicative of what's going to happen through the rest of jury selection, which is - people do have opinions about what happened. But they're being asked whether they can set those views aside and base their verdict on what they hear in court. Most of them have said that they can. One woman was very adamant that she was not going to change her mind, and she was excused. But most of the people have said, yes, I will be open. I'll listen to what I hear in court.

And the question for the lawyers is - or one of the questions for the lawyers is, can they really do that? And I don't mean the jurors are lying about it. But, you know, anybody in good faith is going to say, I'm going to try to be fair and impartial. Whether they can do that is a different question.

SHAPIRO: That's Mary Moriarty, former chief public defender for Hennepin County, Minn.

Thank you for talking with us.

MORIARTY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.