I shed no tears for Derek Chauvin, but what worries me is whether the jury system still works.
The jury’s job is to deliver a verdict based on a consideration of facts.
The members of the jury are supposed to weigh the facts carefully, even if the defendant is a terribly unappealing person. A verdict arrived at fairly is the only kind that vindicates our system.
Brandon Mitchell, one of the jurors in the Floyd trial, in which Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder, has granted an interview, and what he said is disturbing. CNN had the story:
Mitchell first shared his story with Grammy Award-winning gospel artist Erica Campbell and wrote in his jury questionnaire he wanted to serve “because of all the protests and everything that happened after the event.”
“This is the most historic case of my lifetime, and I would love to be a part of it,” he wrote.
Miller was acutely aware of the riots that happened after Floyd’s death, and wanted to participate in the history that the riots represented to him. In the interview, Miller elaborated on this historical nature of the trial in which he participated:
“We haven’t seen an outcome like this on a case. I really think this is a start, and I think it’s a good start,” Mitchell told CNN.
“And then all the attention that it is still getting — just keeping that magnifying glass there has to spark some kind of change.”
Jurors are not supposed to want to feel a part of history. They are supposed to deliberate, weighing evidence, and nothing else. Still, Mr. Miller got his wish: to be an actor in something historic.
Unfortunately, this is a terrible misunderstanding of how a jury should work.
Jury verdicts may “spark change,” but the jury is not supposed to consider this secondary result. Its job is solely to sift through facts. How much confidence do you have this this juror would have been able to vote for acquittal, even if the defense had made a case for it? He revels in the attention the trial got and wants to keep a magnifying glass on the what he seems to regard as the real issues of the trial.
The jury system is not infallible, but it is ancient and has worked well. One appealing aspect of the jury system is that ordinary men and women serve on juries. We trust our fellow citizens to arrive at a verdict. The jury system is both egalitarian and sophisticated. I don’t know what the potential jury pool looked like for this trial, or how many objections were raised, causing possible jurors to be dismissed, before Miller came up for consideration. Maybe the defense had already exhausted its objections before Miller was examined as a juror.
What I do know is that I’d like to be reasonably certain that the jury deliberated and acted with impartiality (blind justice). Even if somebody very unpopular was on trial. Especially if somebody very unpopular is on trial.
The Chauvin verdict came in quickly. Even so, Miller felt that it had taken too long—he felt it should have been reached in 20 minutes. On three charges.
As we also know, the threat of mob violence in the event of a verdict that did not convict on all charges was not theoretical.
Should I eat my words?: Chauvin juror Brandon Mitchell also spoke to the Wall Street Journal. Looks like their deliberations of the evidence, as recounted by Mitchell, were serious and aimed at arriving at the truest verdict. The process included each juror making a time line of the events leading up to Floyd’s cessation of breathing. Brandon describe a jury process that comes across as serious and objective. That at least is how a fuller report read to me.