MINNEAPOLIS — Derek Chauvin's Trial has created an unprecedented scene in Minneapolis: the Hennepin County Courthouse is currently on lockdown with National Guard protection and cameras have entered the courtroom to broadcast a trial live to the public for the first time in Minnesota's history.
It's all a part of one of the most closely-watched criminal trials in recent U.S. history. The occasion is Derek Chauvin's trial — where the former police officer faces charges of murder of George Floyd. The case has remained in the national spotlight since video footage of Floyd's final moments first sparked national protests and conversations last year, and now a jury will determine whether Chauvin will be held response for his death or not. News media nationwide is closely covering the trial and a few sources are streaming it live online.
Although anyone can tune into a livestream of the trial, viewers will not be able to see the people chosen for the jury.
Is the jury in the Chauvin trial completely anonymous?
Yes, the jury is being kept anonymous due to the case’s high profile, but that will likely change at some point.
WHAT WE FOUND
For now, the jury is completely anonymous with only select information released to the public. All the public knows about the seated jurors is their race, approximate age, and any vague details they offered during the jury selection process, which was broadcast live for more than two weeks in March.
Rachel Paulose, a professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis, said this is the first time a trial has been televised live in Minnesota.
“We’ve never had the kind of security arrangements that we’ve seen in this trial. So I think the judge is taking reasonable precautions to protect jurors,” she said. “I think that's appropriate given how many of them have expressed concerns for their own personal safety.”
The judge has ordered that the cameras in the courtroom not show jurors’ faces. Each of them is only identified by a number.
“Everything else, because we have an anonymous jury, is remaining confidential,” Judge Peter Cahill said during selection on March 18.
During the jury selection, the court urged jurors not to give any identifiable information and instructed them not to tell anyone they’re assigned to Chauvin’s trial in order to keep their identities from getting out.
“If that happens, that’s basically going to be a mistrial and you’ll see this whole thing start all over again,” said Kenneth Nunn, a professor at the University of Florida’s law school. “That’s fairly standard not to show the jurors.”
Another high-profile case with strict rules about anonymity was George Zimmerman’s trial for the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The court ordered the media not to show jurors’ faces and kept their names private.
Several experts say Minnesota state law generally makes jurors’ names public record during a trial unless the court restricts it, which Judge Peter Cahill did.
While the court is keeping jurors in Chauvin’s trial anonymous right now, their names will most likely become public record at some point. But this won’t happen until after the trial ends.
During jury selection, Judge Cahill explained who gets to decide when those names are released to the public.
“As you all know, judges are very protective of our jurors. When I feel it is safe for the jurors, I will release their information, not before,” Judge Cahill said. “It's basically the court's decision when to release such information and the court will release such information when it determines it is safe to do so.”
For now at least, the jurors in the Chauvin trial are anonymous.