The first of the 12 jurors who convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of murder in the killing of George Floyd has broken his silence, likening the ordeal of having to watch and rewatch the video of the Black man’s death during the trial to attending a funeral every day.
Brandon Mitchell, known as juror 52 in the courthouse in Minneapolis where Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter last week, has voluntarily spoken out in a round of media interviews. He has opened a window on the stresses of the case and the deliberations within the jury room.
Talking to CNN, Mitchell described the emotion of repeatedly viewing multiple video recordings of the 9 minutes and 29 seconds in which Chauvin knelt on the neck of Floyd. “It was just dark. It felt like every day was a funeral and watching someone die every day.”
Asked by ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday whether the jury felt any pressure to convict Chauvin given the huge public interest in the case, Mitchell said the atmosphere in the courtroom was so intense there was no space to worry about the outside world.
“We weren’t watching the news so we didn’t know what was going on. We were really locked in on the case, there was so much stress,” he said.
He added that public opinion was “so secondary because throughout the trial you are watching somebody die on a daily basis. That stress alone is enough to take your mind away from whatever’s going on outside the courtroom.”
Mitchell, an African American basketball coach, 31, formed part of a highly diverse jury. Reduced to 12 from a pool of more than 300 potential jurors, they consisted of five men and seven women of whom four were Black, six white, while two self-identified as multiracial.
Their ages ranged from 20 to 60.
Together they unanimously found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, for which he faces up to 40 years in prison; third-degree murder – up to 25 years; and second-degree manslaughter – up to 10 years.
Mitchell told ABC that for the most part the jury’s deliberations, which lasted only about 10 hours over two days, were straightforward. One juror took about four hours to agree with the other 11 that the former police officer was guilty of a lesser charge.
Mitchell said that the argument was over the precise meaning of the judge’s instructions. “We went round the room, we broke down the words and what the meanings were until we came to a conclusion,” he said.
He spoke passionately about the legacy of Floyd. “His name is going to live on. His legacy is now cemented in history – it has now become so much bigger than him as an individual.”
The juror’s decision to speak out was purely voluntarily. The judge at trial, Peter Cahill, has ordered the names of the jury panel to be withheld from the public for at least six months given the number of “incendiary, inflammatory and threatening” emails that have been received by lawyers.
Mitchell explained to ABC his sense of civic duty. “In order for change to happen we have to show up for jury duty, we have to vote. If we want to start seeing different results we have to start doing those things, we cannot avoid them.”