Juror in Chauvin trial: 'You're watching someone die on a daily basis'

Brandon Mitchell is the first juror to speak publicly, telling media outlets he thought deliberations could have ended after 20 minutes.
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Juror Brandon Mitchell speaks on 'Good Morning America.'

Juror Brandon Mitchell speaks on 'Good Morning America.'

A juror who voted to convict Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd is the first to speak out about the trial, saying it was like watching someone die "on a daily basis."

Brandon Mitchell, 31, of Minneapolis, appeared on ABC's Good Morning America Wednesday morning, giving people an inside look at what the 10-plus hours of deliberations were like. He also spoke to CNN and CBS This Morning on Wednesday, as well as shared his story with gospel artist Erica Campbell on her podcast earlier this week.

One juror held up deliberations

Mitchell, a Black man who was known during the trial as juror 52, called deliberations pretty "straightforward" but there "were a few hiccups with terminology and understanding exactly what the instructions were."

"There wasn't too much banter back-and-forth," Mitchell told Good Morning America, noting he thought deliberations could have lasted 20 minutes. "I think the one juror that was kind of — I wouldn't say slowing us down — but was being delicate with the process more so, was just kind of hung up on a few words within the instructions and just wanted to make sure that they got it right."

He is the first juror to speak to the press. Alternate juror, Lisa Christensen, did interviews last week, saying she would have voted to convict Chauvin had she not been an alternate (she was dismissed prior to deliberations).

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill ordered on April 23 the identities of the jurors to be kept confidential for at least 180 days (six months), at which point the court will revisit the order. This does not prevent jurors from coming forward on their own. 

'Every day was a funeral'

Mitchell, a basketball coach at North Community High School in Minneapolis, and the other 11 jurors were sequestered during deliberations and throughout the trial were instructed to avoid the news so they didn't know what was going on outside the courtroom, which included a heavy law enforcement presence, protests and the police killing of another Black man, Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center.

"We weren't watching the news, so we don't know what was going on. We were really just locked in on the case. There was so much stress coming through the case. Those things are so secondary because you're literally, throughout the trial you're watching someone die on a daily basis," he told Good Morning America. "That stress alone is enough to take your mind away from whatever's going on outside of the four walls of the courtroom."

Mitchell told CNN, "It was just dark. It felt like every day was a funeral and watching someone die every day. It was tense every day. I wasn't nervous, but it was stressful. It was a lot of pressure."

In a similar statement to CBS, he said, "We were just stressed about just the simple fact that everyday we had to come in and watch a Black man die."

Throughout the trial, the prosecution and defense frequently played witness video and body camera footage of Floyd's arrest after he tried to pass a fake $20 bill at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis, in which he cried out for his mom and said he couldn't breathe multiple times. 

In speaking with Good Morning America, he said the viral bystander video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds on May 25, 2020, was "probably the most important piece of evidence" in the case and said Chauvin's decision to not testify was "to his detriment" because "people were curious on what his thoughts were throughout the entire incident."

Related [April 21]: Darnella Frazier, teen who filmed the video of Floyd's arrest, reacts to guilty verdict

Mitchell told CNN a strong moment in the prosecution's case was when pulmonary expert Martin Tobin testified that Chauvin's restraint on Floyd continued for about three minutes after he stopped breathing. 

"Once Dr. Tobin was finished with his testimony, I felt like the trial was done. He spoke everything in layman's terms, and it made sense," he said.

Making history

The jury on April 20 convicted Chauvin of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder. 

Chauvin is the first white officer in Minnesota to be convicted of murdering a Black man. Mitchell told CNN he knew the decision the jury made would become part of history but told CBS News they didn't feel pressured to convict Chauvin. 

"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."

Related [April 21]: Chauvin's conviction featured on front pages around the world

Floyd's death led to protests across the world last summer and sparked louder calls for police reform and accountability in Minnesota and nationwide, which seemed to start to gain some traction among lawmakers with some reform measures getting passed in Minnesota last summer. 

After Chauvin was convicted, people celebrated and were relieved but calls for police reform underscored the celebrations. The verdict, for many, represented a step toward police accountability as activists continue their fight for a more equitable policing and criminal justice system.

President Joe Biden called the conviction a "too rare" step for Black Americans and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said it was the "first step towards justice" but called for a "transformation" of the relationship between police and civilians.

Related [April 22]: MN House passes omnibus public safety bill with police reform measures

There are efforts at the state Capitol to pass a slew of police accountability measures but Republicans in the Minnesota Senate continue to delay hearings on police reform legislation despite Democrats in the House passing such measures

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice said it will investigate if there is a pattern of "unconstitutional or unlawful policing" at the Minneapolis Police Department. 

Chauvin to be sentenced in June

Chauvin's sentencing hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. on June 25. A second-degree murder conviction in Minnesota carries a maximum penalty of up to 40 years in prison but state sentencing guidelines call for presumptive prison terms starting at 12.5 years for someone with no criminal history.

Prosecutors are expected to ask Judge Cahill for a stricter-than-recommended sentence citing potential aggravating factors. 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison last week appeared on SiriusXM's The Joe Madison Show and said his office is working on the sentencing recommendations they'll make to Cahill, saying: "I think everybody can count on us recommending a sentence that is commensurate with the 9 minute and 29 seconds slow death of George Floyd."

While Chauvin has been found guilty in the murder of Floyd, the three other now-former Minneapolis police officers who are charged in Floyd's death — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are being tried together, with the trial set to begin on Aug. 23.

They're each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. 

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