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Chauvin juror breaks down what worked for prosecution

Paul Walsh, Star Tribune on

Published in News & Features

"When you get to be in the position of those men and hear the conversations of those men, that was overwhelming."

Reluctant to criticize the defense's case for acquittal, Howard did point out a couple of areas that fell short, including when attorney Eric Nelson raised the possibility that carbon monoxide from a squad car close to Floyd's head might have contributed to his death.

"If he was subjected to carbon monoxide, wouldn't that have been exposed to [the officers closest to Floyd] as well? That didn't hold too much water for me," Howard said.

And even if she accepted the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning, "they would have been at fault. He was in their custody."

Howard, who identified herself during the jury selection process as biracial and is the daughter of a white mother and a Black father, said she like didn't like how Nelson was so confrontational with prosecution witness Donald Williams III, another of the witnesses who stood within feet of Chauvin and Floyd. Nelson drew criticism for appearing to portray Williams as an angry Black man whose foul language and tone created a threatening atmosphere for the officers.

Nelson tried to make Williams "seem angry and emotional in a negative way," Howard said. "[Williams] did an excellent job staying poised and truthful in his testimony. I don't think it turned out as well for the defense as he wanted it to"

Chauvin's choice to exercise his constitutional right and not testify on his own behalf had little effect, Howard said.

"I wouldn't say I wanted him to," she said. "I don't want to lie, it wouldn't have made a difference to me. If he had something he really, really wanted to say to get off, he would have."

Howard declined to give an opinion on what sentence Chauvin should receive June 25, when he is scheduled to be back in court before Judge Peter Cahill.

 

"I think Judge Cahill is great," she said. "I fully trust in his decision-making.

She also deferred to the next group of jurors who will decide in a single trial the guilt or innocence of the other fired officers involved in Floyd's arrest: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

Howard described the officers' first contact with Floyd over a counterfeit currency allegation and his unwillingness to get in a squad car as "a little bit of a hostile situation more than it needed to be."

Once Chauvin and two other officers had Floyd detained on the street, "they could have tried to do something or not. But at the end of the day, Mr. Chauvin was the senior officer and running things."

Howard was the second juror selected, and she explained during the jury selection process that she was "super excited" to receive her summons because she believed it was her civic duty. She said she was eager to serve regardless of the case, but especially in Chauvin's trial, given the gravity of it. "It's a very important case, not just for Hennepin County … but nationwide," she said. "It's just something everyone's heard about, talked about … No matter the decision, people are still going to talk about it."

Deliberations after more than three weeks of testimony lasted just a few hours, spanning two days before the unanimous verdicts were reached — a brief amount of time that "came as a shock to all of us" on the jury, Howard said Thursday. She pointed out that she and the other sequestered jurors had enough clothing packed to last several weeks.

"We were expecting at least through the end of that week and maybe come back Monday and be done," she said. We did not know [at the start] where everyone stood. We started having dialogue and realized we were all on the same page. We were a lot more in sync than any of us expected."

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