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Chauvin trial: Jury pool sent home as court awaits appeals court guidance

Judge Cahill rejected the prosecution's motion to delay the start of jury selection, but it was delayed Monday anyway.
Judge Peter Cahill. 

Judge Peter Cahill. 

Updated as of 12:13 p.m.

Jury selection is on hold in Derek Chauvin's trial even after Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said Monday it would proceed as scheduled.

The pool of potential jurors was sent home Monday morning, delaying the start of jury selection, as the court seeks guidance from the state Court of Appeals on whether the district court can proceed with jury selection while it awaits the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision on a third-degree murder charge. 

Prosecutors on Monday filed a motion with the appeals court seeking to prevent the trial from proceeding until the Minnesota Supreme Court rules. While Cahill said he'll continue with the trial until told otherwise by a higher court. The court is in recess until 1:30 p.m., with Cahill saying they hope to hear from the appeals court by then.

"The State is fully ready to go to trial, but the trial must be conducted in accordance with the rules and the law,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. His office is prosecuting the case. “Now that Mr. Chauvin has stated his intention to appeal Friday’s Court of Appeals ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, as is his right, the district court does not have jurisdiction to conduct jury selection or hear and rule on other substantive matters in the trial. We have filed motion with the Court of Appeals to ensure that justice is pursued properly.” 

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd's May 25, 2020, death.

He had also initially been charged with third-degree murder but Cahill nixed the charge, saying it didn't apply. A recent state Court of Appeals ruling to uphold Mohammad Noor's third-degree murder conviction set precedent for the Chauvin case, prompting prosecutors to appeal Cahill's decision to the Court of Appeals, which ruled on Friday that the Hennepin County District Court had to reconsider reinstating a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin.

There was uncertainty going into the first day of Chauvin's trial that it would be delayed after the state Court of Appeals ruling. 

Related [March 8]: Everything you need to know as Derek Chauvin's trial is set to begin

Chauvin's attorney Eric J. Nelson said in court Monday morning he planned to file a petition with the state Supreme Court very soon, perhaps later Monday or Tuesday, related to the appeals court opinion on the reinstatement of the third-degree murder charge. He said jury selection could continue as the district court awaits the state Supreme Court's decision. 

However, prosecutor Matthew Frank of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office asked Cahill to stop the jury selection process until after the Supreme Court's opinion on the matter (Cahill said that would delay the trial at least 30 days) so he wouldn't have to pick jurors without knowing what the charges are. 

Frank also said moving forward now would create an appeal issue that wouldn't need to exist.

"We're not trying to delay this case, we want to try it right, and we can only try it once," Frank told Cahill Monday morning.

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Jury selection now won't begin until at least Tuesday. It is expected to take three weeks, with opening statements currently scheduled for March 29. 

Meanwhile, outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday, people rallied demanding justice for Floyd. 

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