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Chauvin Trial Judge Denies Request For Jury Sequestration After Police Shooting

After a fatal police shooting near Minneapolis on Sunday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's attorney expressed concern that jurors in his murder trial could be swayed by the events. Judge Peter Cahill denied the request to re-question jurors and immediately sequester them.

Cahill said the jury would be fully sequestered beginning next Monday when closing arguments are expected to start.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked that jurors be questioned on what they had heard about the police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, a nearby city in Hennepin County. Unrest followed the shooting: Police deployed tear gas and flash-bang grenades to clear protesters who had gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.

One of the jurors lives in Brooklyn Center, and others have ties to the city, Nelson said. He said jurors should have already been sequestered due to the high-profile nature of the case and its tendency to evoke strong emotions. Nelson asked that jurors be warned at the beginning of each day to avoid all media.

Nelson also expressed concern that jurors might be made nervous to deliver a verdict with which the public does not agree.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher countered that he didn't believe jury sequestration would be effective. It used to be that avoiding media meant not reading newspapers or watching television, he said, but now media are omnipresent.

The judge ruled against the motion to question the jurors about what they had heard about Sunday's shooting on the basis that it a totally separate case. He worried that such questioning might lead jurors to believe there were new threats to their safety. It would be different, Cahill said, if the civil unrest had followed a verdict.

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.