MINNEAPOLIS – A juror who was part of the unanimous vote to convict a white former Minneapolis police officer of killing George Floyd has spoken publicly about his experience.
In a series of interviews, Brandon Mitchell described his experience during the nearly three-week trial. The 31-year-old basketball coach, who is Black, is the first member of the jury to speak publicly about finding Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Mitchell, plus 11 other jurors whose identities are protected under a judicial order, reached their decision April 20, little more than a day after deliberations began.
“I felt like it should have been 20 minutes,” Mitchell told gospel artist Erica Campbell on her podcast, where he first shared his story.
“It was pretty much, for the most part, it was straightforward," he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday. "There were a few hiccups with, you know, terminology and understanding exactly what the instructions were for each case. ... For the most part, we got in, we got out. There wasn’t too much banter back and forth.”
He said they actually deliberated for about 4 hours. Mitchell said the jury began its work with an “icebreaker,” voting on whether to deliberate with their masks on or off; they chose off. After that, they handled each charge by taking a preliminary vote, then going around the room to let each person speak.
“We were going over more so the terminology that was being used and making sure that we understood exactly what was being asked,” he said. "I think the one juror that was kind of, I wouldn’t say slowing us down, but was being delicate with the process, more so, was just kind of hung up on a few words within the instructions. They just wanted to make sure they got it right.”
FINDING CHAUVIN GUILTY
Mitchell said the jury was most convinced by the testimony of Dr. Martin Tobin, an expert medical witness who testified that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen because Chauvin pinned him to the pavement with his knee on his neck. He said Tobin was “the biggest, the most influential witness out of everybody.”
Prosecutors said Chauvin, 45, pinned Floyd to the pavement for 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
“When Dr. Tobin came, with him speaking so scientifically but also making it understandable for everyone along with the exhibits that he came with, I thought he just broke it down in a manner that was easy for all the jurors to understand,” he said. "And I didn’t think there was any way for the defense to come back after that. ... It was done at that point almost.”
Mitchell said he was also convinced by testimony from Donald Williams, one of the witnesses at the scene who urged Chauvin to get off Floyd and who later dialed 911 to say he had witnessed a murder.
Chauvin wore a mask for most of the trial, according to the court’s pandemic protocols. In the few moments when he was allowed to remove it, he showed little expression.
But Mitchell said he detected a change in Chauvin's demeanor over the course of the trial. He told Campbell that the former police officer looked “confident” early in the trial, but after several key moments, looked “confused and discombobulated.”
Mitchell also said he thought Chauvin hurt himself by not testifying in his defense.
“It probably was to his detriment that he didn’t take the stand because people were curious on what his thoughts were throughout the entire incident,” he said.
“Either way, I can’t say it would have changed the outcome, but it’s a possibility for sure," he told “Good Morning America.”
PRESSURE DURING THE TRIAL
While Mitchell said he wanted to be a part of the “historic” trial, he admitted it was difficult, especially repeatedly watching video and hearing accounts of how Floyd stopped breathing.
“It was just dark. It felt like every day was a funeral and watching someone die every day,” Mitchell told CNN. “It was tense every day. I wasn’t nervous, but it was stressful. It was a lot of pressure.”
He told CBS’ “This Morning" on Wednesday that the trial had an impact on him.
“There was a few days where I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to make it in this next day, especially as a Black man and a larger Black man,’” said Mitchell, who described himself as 6 feet, 4 inches and 250 pounds (1.93 meters and 113 kilograms).
At one point during the trial, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California, visited Minneapolis and urged protesters to “get more confrontational” if Chauvin was not convicted of murder. The judge overseeing the trial called her remarks “abhorrent” and suggested they could lead to the verdict being appealed and overturned.
But Mitchell said those comments and media coverage of the trial did not affect jurors.
“We weren’t watching the news, so we don’t know what was going on. We were really just locked in on the case," he said. “There was so much stress coming through the case. Those things are so secondary because you’re literally, throughout the trial you’re watching someone die on a daily basis. That stress alone is enough to take your mind away from whatever’s going on outside of the four walls of the courtroom.”
Though Chauvin was convicted of three counts, under Minnesota law he'll be sentenced only on the most serious one. Legal experts say that although the statutory maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 40 years, the practical maximum for Chauvin is 30 years and he could get less.
Mitchell declined to say what he thought Chauvin should get.
“I couldn't say what the proper sentencing would be,” Mitchell told CBS. “You know, I think we came with the right verdict, you know, guilty on all charges and, you know, let the judge do what he does.”
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd