Jury selection in the Derek Chauvin murder trial resumed Wednesday morning, but not before the prosecution and defense attorneys debated a series of motions that were introduced. One of them centered on the so-called “spark of life” doctrine ahead of the anticipated reference to George Floyd‘s prior drug use during the trial.
Chauvin’s defense attorneys are expected to claim Floyd’s drug use played a larger role in his death than the former Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck while he was handcuffed for about nine minutes.
The Washington Post reported that Floyd “spent years using street drugs” and an autopsy found he “had a large amount of fentanyl, a small amount of methamphetamine and THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — in his blood” at the time of his death.
However, the Hennepin County medical examiner determined that Floyd’s cause of death was “homicide” due to “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” which is consistent with what Chauvin was shown doing on the widely seen video from the fateful day.
With that as the backdrop, Chauvin’s lawyers and lawyers with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office squared off Wednesday morning about what kind of evidence will be permitted in the murder trial.
The prosecution wants to have witnesses take the stand and testify about Floyd’s personal character, which would be considered as “spark of life” evidence. Presumably, that testimony would include commentary on Floyd’s past drug use, which would open up the opportunity for defense lawyers to cross-examine those witnesses on the topic — something that may not bode well for the prosecution’s efforts to frame Floyd in a positive light.
Chauvin’s attorney announced Monday that Minneapolis police officers in January were searching the police vehicle that Floyd never entered when they found chewed-up pills and one full pill that they claim had Floyd’s DNA on it.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled that Floyd’s criminal history is not allowed to be introduced as evidence.
The lawyers also argued Wednesday morning over whether any reference to “the blue line of silence” would be permitted. That would be relevant the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd in which police are shown banding together to protect the defendant from the bystanders who witnessed the incident on May 25.
The first three jurors were selected Tuesday, one day after Cahill announced he was considering charging the Chauvin with an additional third-degree murder charge that was dropped in October on a legal technicality.
Chauvin, who turns 45 later this month, stands charged with second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. He could also have a third-degree murder charge reinstated after it was dropped in October on a legal technicality.
The process of selecting a jury has been given three weeks, with opening statements scheduled to begin no later than March 29. They were described as a woman of color and two white men. Six others were dismissed.
The judge and the attorneys need to find as many as 16 jurors, including four alternates.