Brandon Mitchell, a juror in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, attended the March on Washington anniversary last August, and a photo of him wearing a t-shirt with an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that reads, “Get your knee off our necks,” and a Black Lives Matter hat, has circulated on social media. This has led to speculation about his motives for serving on the trial.
The photo has been published to a number of news sites, including Fox News and CBS Minnesota. Could this lead to an appeal on the verdict?
Mitchell was one of 12 jurors who convicted Chauvin two weeks ago on all counts against him — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — in the May 25 killing of George Floyd. According to Minnesota’s Star-Tribune, there might be grounds for Derek Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, to appeal the verdict. The Star -Tribune spoke to Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who said, “If [Mitchell] specifically was asked, ‘Have you ever participated in a Black Lives Matter demonstration,’ and he answered, ‘No,’ to that, I think that would be an important appealable issue.”
The Washington Post reports that as part of the jury selection, jury candidates were required to fill out a 14-page questionnaire asking about a wide range of topics including race and policing, as well as education levels, professional experience, and hobbies, in order to gather in-depth knowledge about the candidates. After that, the candidates were all asked several questions during jury selection.
The Star-Tribune reports that Nelson asked Mitchell several questions during jury selection; Mitchell said that he had a “very favorable” opinion of Black Lives Matter. But he also noted that he knew some police officers who he said were “great guys,” and that he felt neutral about the pro-police group, Blue Lives Matter. He said he could remain neutral during the trial.
Jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer told The Washington Post that it is likely that Chauvin’s defense attorney will use this photograph of Mitchell to push for an appeal but he also said that the photo itself would not be enough to dismiss the conviction.
Tuerkheimer added, however, that Mitchell’s alleged denial that he was involved in any protests could lead Judge Peter A. Cahill to bring Mitchell in for further questioning to determine whether he was untruthful, or worse, if he had an agenda or a predetermined verdict in mind.
“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,” Tuerkheimer said, noting that it is a “high standard” that Cahill would consider, since it is unlikely that the judge would decide to toss the entire trial and start it all over again.