Summary List Placement
A recently-surfaced photo shows one of the jurors on Derek Chauvin’s trial wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt at a police-accountability protest last summer, possibly complicating the former officer’s guilty verdict.
The photo in question shows Brandon Mitchell, or juror 52, attending a rally in Washington, DC, in August, named the “‘Get Off Our Necks’ Commitment March.” You can see it here.
The protest was pegged to the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, and the shirt Mitchell wears in the photo includes King’s likeness and includes the words “Get your knee of our necks” and “BLM.”
Multiple people tweeted that this suggested Mitchell was impartial as a juror.
It is only a matter of time before it is overturned on appeal…https://t.co/PwGijjgg6w
— Greg Musselwhite (@GregMusselwhit3) May 3, 2021
Last month Mitchell and 11 other jurors found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, a Black man whose neck the officer kneeled on for several minutes.
Chauvin is currently awaiting sentencing in June, and faces up to 40 years in prison on the most serious conviction, second-degree murder.
Experts said the discovery of Mitchell’s photo could give Chauvin a stronger case for an appeal and possibly even a mistrial.
Juror said he didn’t attend police-brutality protests
Jurors were asked on their initial questionnaire whether they had participated in any “demonstrations or marches against police brutality that took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death” and whether they or anyone close to them “participated in protests about police use of force or police brutality.”
Mitchell told the Star Tribune that he answered “no” to both questions, and felt that he had been “extremely honest” in answering the questionnaire.
But he made conflicting comments about the T-shirt, telling CBS Minnesota that he wore it to reflect news events in 2020, not because he believed he was attending a protest solely focused on Floyd. But in his interview with the Star Tribune, he said he had no recollection of wearing or owning the shirt.
Mitchell said the march in August was “100% not” a March for Floyd, but a voter-registration rally, according to his interviews with the Star Tribune and CBS Minnesota.
However, George Floyd’s brother and sister, Philonise and Bridgett Floyd, spoke at the event, which was organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN). Sharpton announced the march during Floyd’s memorial, and has maintained close ties to the Floyd legal team. He was present at the press conference last month where the Floyd family and their legal team reacted to the Chauvin verdict.
NAN described the August march as being “instigated from the protest movement that has risen up since the police killing of George Floyd” to “demonstrate our advocacy for comprehensive police accountability reform, the Census, and mobilizing voters for the November elections.”
Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, told the Star Tribune: “If [Mitchell] specifically was asked, ‘Have you ever participated in a Black Lives Matter demonstration,’ and he answered, ‘No,’ to that, I think that would be an important appealable issue.”
The civil-rights attorney Brian Dunn told The Post that an inquiry could focus on whether Mitchell “lied about, or failed to provide complete answers on whether he has engaged in public activism, or whether he has any affiliations with BLM that go beyond the mere wearing of the shirt.”
“If it is determined that the juror did not provide full disclosure to the defense, the question then becomes whether this lack of candor violated Mr. Chauvin’s right to a fair trial,” Dunn said.
‘It’s really hard to overturn a conviction’
In general, the experts said that the photo would lead to questions in court and could bolster Chauvin’s appeal case. It could also lead to a mistrial, though that would be an extreme conclusion.
Experts that spoke to CBS Minnesota agreed that Mitchell would have to be questioned in what’s called a Schwartz hearing, and that depending on his answers, a mistrial could be called.
But law professor Rachel Moran told CBS Minnesota that it would be hard to overturn Chauvin’s guilty conviction.
“It’s really hard to overturn a conviction, and courts are especially reluctant to interfere with the jury deliberation process,” Moran said.
The jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer told The Post that Chauvin’s attorney would likely use the photo to push for an appeal, but the photo in and of itself is not enough to dismiss the conviction.
Tuerkheimer said Mitchell could be questioned to assess whether he lied on the questionnaire, had an agenda, or came to the case with his mind made up.
“That could change the outcome of things; if there is anything that makes him seem that he was not forthcoming, it could be an avenue for the judge to reconsider the case,” Tuerkheimer said.
Was Chauvin’s lawyer thorough?
It could also be the case that Chauvin’s defense attorney didn’t do a good enough job screening Mitchell.
Daly, the emeritus professor, told the Star Tribune that jurors are not expected to open up their entire lives and list everything they’ve “ever done that may or may not relate to the case.”
“It’s the job of the lawyers to look for and find unbiased jurors,” he said.
Insider has contacted the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, Chauvin’s defense attorney, and Mitchell for comment.