One of the 12 jurors in the trial of Derek Chauvin is under scrutiny after his attendance at a protest and a Black Lives Matter shirt he once wore were both captured in an old Facebook post.
The post, shared in late August captured juror Brandon Mitchell wearing a “Black Lives Matter” hat and a T-shirt with a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. as well the phrases “Get your knee off our neck” and “BLM.” The photo circulated the web, prompting many to question whether he was biased during the trial.
During an interview with the Star Tribune, Mitchell said that he didn’t remember donning the that particular shirt but confessed to attending the anniversary of the March on Washington.
“I’d never been to [Washington] DC,” he explained. “The opportunity to go to DC, 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.”
During the jury selection process, Mitchell and other prospective jurors were required to fill out an application that would determine their ability to be partial in the case. Mitchell told Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson that he had a “very favorable” opinion on Black Lives Matter and believed that some police officers were “great guys,” but he insisted he could remain objective. He also answered two particular questions about his participation in any protests.
“Did you, or someone close to you, participate in any of the demonstrations or marches against police brutality that took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death?” one question read. The other asked: “Other than what you have already described above, have you, or anyone close to you, participated in protests about police use of force or police brutality?”
Mitchell reportedly replied “no” to both questions. When speaking to the Tribune, he explained that the significance of the March of Washington extends far beyond Chauvin’s case.
“It was directly related to MLK’s March on Washington from the ‘60s. ... The date of the March on Washington is the date. ... It was literally called the anniversary of the March on Washington,” he told the Star-Tribune. “This was a big deal. It’s a national thing.”
Per jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer, Mitchell’s answers to the questionnaire can potentially be used by Chauvin if/when he appeals the jury’s guilty verdict.
“That could change the outcome of things; if there is anything that makes him seem that he was not forthcoming, it could be an avenue for the judge to reconsider the case,” he said.
Civil rights attorney Brian Dunn added that the photo is “undeniably suggestive of a possible bias in this juror,” noting that a deeper review would be required to figure out whether Mitchell “lied about or failed to provide complete answers on whether he has engaged in public activism.”
“If it is determined that the juror did not provide full disclosure to the defense, the question then becomes whether this lack of candor violated Mr. Chauvin’s right to a fair trial,” Dunn said.
Mitchell, however, maintains that he “was being extremely honest” throughout the entire selection process.