A Black juror who voted to convict George Floyd’s murderer, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, has come out to defend his decision to attend a social justice demonstration last August.
Brandon Mitchell, also known as juror #52, is now under fire after an image circulated showing Mitchell attending the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. The event was organized by Al Sharpton’s organization National Action Network and the NAACP, and welcomed thousands to the Lincoln Memorial to remember Martin Luther King’s vision for America in his “I Have A Dream” speech, as well as a reinvigorated call for justice around the Black Lives Matter movement. The story was first reported by the International Business Times.
“I’d never been to [Washington] D.C.,” Mitchell told the Associated Press on Monday. “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.”
In the photo posted to Facebook on Aug. 31, Mitchell is seen wearing a shirt which reads “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” which could be a direct reference to Floyd’s murder after Chauvin used his knee to restrain him while handcuffed for almost nine minutes. However the phrase could also be attributed to the storied history of the Black experience in America, lengthened by ongoing systemic racism and oppression.
Prior to serving on the jury, Mitchell reportedly answered “no” to two questions in the juror questionnaire sent before jury selection which asked about participation in demonstrations.
Those who are seeking to delegitimize the brevity of the Chauvin verdict argue that Mitchell’s attendance prior to participating as a juror could be grounds for an appeal.
The argument likens back to Judge Peter Cahill’s claim around Rep. Maxine Waters encouraging protesters in Minnesota days before the guilty verdict was handed in.
Legal experts say that Chauvin’s defense team could use Mitchell’s attendance and Waters’ statements to demonstrators, to file an appeal against his conviction.
Last week Mitchell spoke to “Good Morning America” about the emotional toll the trial took on his mental psyche.
“Coming in each and every day and having to watch somebody die is stressful enough by itself,” he said. “So anything outside of that was secondary because as a human, it’s natural to feel some kind of way as you’re watching somebody in agony.”