In the Rodney King case in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, the four officers caught on video beating Mr. King were acquitted after their trial was moved to the predominantly white suburb of Simi Valley, touching off violent riots. At around the same time in Minneapolis, protests rocked the city following an all-white grand jury’s decision not to indict a white officer, Dan May, who fatally shot a Black teenager in the back.
Minneapolis is about 64 percent white and 20 percent Black, while the jury pool in its county, Hennepin, was 80 percent white and 8 percent Black in the 2020 fiscal year, according to figures from the State Court Administrator’s Office. The difference reflects the fact that the county is whiter than the city and Black potential jurors tend to be slightly underrepresented in the pool.
- On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store clerk claimed he used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
- Mr. Floyd died after Derek Chauvin, one of the police officers, handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground with a knee, an episode that was captured on video.
- Mr. Floyd’s death set off a series of nationwide protests against police brutality.
- Mr. Chauvin was fired from Minneapolis police force along with three other officers. He has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and now faces trial, which begins on March 8.
- Here is what we know up to this point in the case, and how the trial is expected to unfold.
Jury diversity is important for two reasons, experts said. Research shows that just as diverse corporations and institutions perform better, so do juries, benefiting from multiple perspectives. And if the jury lacks racial diversity, its verdict would likely not be viewed as legitimate.
Paul Butler, a former prosecutor and professor at Georgetown Law, expressed concern that some questions, asking whether prospective jurors agreed with a series of statements about race and policing, might be used to disqualify people of color even when the statement is objectively true — for example, the statement “Minneapolis police officers are more likely to respond with force when confronting Black suspects than when dealing with white suspects.”
But Mr. Herbert, the defense lawyer, said private polling conducted before the Van Dyke trial showed that the vast majority of Black residents were predisposed to convict. “In these police cases where it’s a white police officer and a Black victim, it is virtually impossible to find a significant number of Blacks that have not prejudged the case, for many reasons, not the least of which is what they have gone through, likely, in the past.”
On the other hand, legal experts say, having too many white jurors would probably stack the deck in favor of the defense, because people tend to have less natural empathy for someone of a different race — in this case, Mr. Floyd — and white people are more likely to favor law enforcement.