Alternate Juror In Derek Chauvin Trial Explains What Swayed Her
Lisa Christensen had no say in the final outcome of the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin that ended Tuesday with his conviction on all three counts.
As an alternate juror, she sat alongside the other members of the jury ― who have not spoken publicly ― for three weeks listening to arguments for both sides. Chauvin is now awaiting sentencing for the murder of George Floyd, the Black man whom he restrained by pinning to the pavement for nearly 10 minutes last spring.
On Thursday, Christensen spoke to reporters about her view from the bench, saying that she was happy with how the trial turned out.
“I felt he was guilty,” she told “CBS This Morning.”
She said it felt as if Chauvin “wasn’t taking the warnings” that Floyd’s life was at risk seriously.
“I just don’t understand how it got from a counterfeit $20 bill to a death. It kind of shocks me,” Christensen said.
One expert witness in particular swayed her ― Dr. Martin Tobin, a renowned pulmonologist called by the prosecution to explain precisely how Floyd died on May 25, 2020.
Tobin testified for hours, analyzing footage of the incident obtained from officers’ body cameras and bystanders in order to illustrate how Floyd struggled to draw air into his lungs and then, after several minutes, died.
“I just felt like the prosecution made a really good, strong argument. Dr. Tobin was the one that really did it for me. He explained everything. I understood it down to where he said this is the moment that he lost his life ― really got to me,” Christensen said on CBS.
She was also moved by testimony from bystander Darnella Frazier, the teen who recorded the first video of Floyd’s death seen around the world. On the stand, Frazier explained how she felt guilty that she could not have done more to help Floyd, saying he reminded her of her own Black loved ones.
“Without her, I don’t think this would have been possible,” Christensen said of Frazier.
In her view, defense attorney Eric Nelson “overpromised in the beginning and didn’t live up to what he said he was going to do” to make his argument. Throughout the trial, Nelson attempted to convince the jurors that Floyd’s preexisting heart conditions and the traces of drugs found in his system were his primary cause of death.
Chauvin had pleaded not guilty to all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
A photograph of Christensen’s notes obtained by KARE 11, a Minneapolis NBC affiliate, showed how evidence brought by Chauvin’s defense might have actually worked against him.
Nelson showed the jury body camera footage of an earlier run-in between Floyd and Minneapolis police officers from 2019, when he was taken into custody from the passenger seat of a vehicle. Floyd admitted to having taken an opioid that day because he had trouble with addiction.
“George didn’t die that day even though this arrest was similar to May 25th 2020,” she wrote, echoing a prosecutor’s take on the 2019 incident.
Christensen was not a part of the final deliberations, and said that initially, she would not have chosen to be part of the jury due to the contentious and highly public nature of the trial. But she heard everything each side had to say and formed an opinion anyway, as she was only informed of her status as an alternate juror when both sides had rested their case.
She told KARE 11 that her “heart broke a little bit” when Judge Peter Cahill told her she was actually an alternate juror.
In her view the jurors took their responsibilities seriously and did not socialize much with one another between proceedings in the trial.
While the 12 seated members of the jury are now free to openly discuss their participation in the case, none have done so, and Cahill has not yet revealed their identities. Judges have the power to shield juries in certain cases where safety may be a concern.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter