(CNN) — Months after convicting the former Minneapolis Police officer who killed George Floyd, jurors describe the trial as a life-altering experience that still haunts them.
It was his first and only interview since Derek Chauvin was found guilty in April. of accidental homicide, unintentional homicide with contempt for life and unintentional homicide in the commission of a felony.
Seven jurors told CNN’s Don Lemon that his verdict in the most important trial of the Black Lives Matter era was based solely on the evidence, not his opinions about race.
The gruesome video of Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, as the black man screamed that he couldn’t breathe, is etched in their minds, they said. Some have sought counseling and therapy.
“It’s definitely in my spirit and it will always be there,” Sherri Belton Hardeman said of the video.
“Seeing George Floyd call his mother broke my heart. Being a mother, a black mother, a black grandmother. We call our mother when we are suffering, when it hurts and when we need it … And unfortunately her mother does not he was able to come to his rescue. In fact, no one came to his rescue. It is heartbreaking, “he said.
“There is no room for error at all”
Jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days before reaching a verdict. Chauvin, who plans to appeal the ruling, was sentenced in June to 22 and a half years in prison.
The jury heard about three weeks of testimony. Prosecutors asked them to “believe their eyes” and to rely on video of Floyd’s last moments, including images of a mobile phone taken by a 17-year-old girl. The defense called seven witnesses, but not Chauvin, who availed himself of his right not to testify under the Fifth amendment.
“The first thing we did was, one, take off our masks and then exchange names,” Nicole Deters said.
“Some of us were feeling a little anxious because we had been putting up with all of this for three and a half weeks,” added Brandon Mitchell.
Then came the first of many votes they would cast, starting with the murder charges. The votes were anonymous, scrawled on scraps of paper.
When everyone agreed that they were guilty of murder, some members of the panel began to act as the devil’s advocate and suggested that they discuss the defense arguments. Those arguments were listed on a blackboard.
“I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page,” Belton Hardeman said. “I wanted to make sure that we were acting with due diligence and that we really understood what our task was. There was no room for error at all.”
There were about four votes on the second count before reaching an agreement on guilt. They watched the video and went through loads of notes and testimonials to answer questions like: How many times was Floyd’s pulse checked? What did the agents say to each other?
Jodi Doud posed another question: “Wait. Does George Floyd’s death have to be the willful act of harm or can it be [el hecho] who have not provided life support? “
“Suddenly the light bulbs went on for people who I think were undecided or on the not-guilty side,” Deters said.
“It’s not about what he did, it’s more or less about what he didn’t do,” added Doud, referring to Derek Chauvin. “He did not provide measures to save George Floyd’s life when he knew the guy was in pain or needed medical attention.”
Deters held the line of not guilty or indecision until Doud spoke of intention.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re absolutely right,'” Deters said. “There is intention […] of not providing life-saving measures when he knew three times there was no pulse. “
Race was not even mentioned in Derek Chauvin’s trial
In the jury room, Belton Hardeman said, he recalled testimony about a Minneapolis Police motto: “In our custody, in our care,” or words to that effect.
“George Floyd was in their custody,” he said. “He was never under their care. And that to me … is a hard blow. I feel like they never cared about him.”
Jurors said they likely would have reached the same decision if Derek Chauvin had taken the stand in his defense.
“The tests were the tests,” Mitchell said.
Belton Hardeman added: “I’m still trying to understand nine minutes and 29 seconds. Why? And I don’t think Derek Chauvin can ever explain it to me.”
Still, the jurors said they would have liked to hear the former police officer explain his actions.
“For us, it is a traumatic experience,” Mitchell said. “I would have added a bit of closure for us just to hear what I was thinking. How did this come to be?”
Although Floyd’s death at the hands of a former white agent sparked widespread protests against law enforcement brutality and racism under the banner Black Lives Matter, the diverse panel said race did not come into play. their deliberations.
“We got here because of systemic racism within the system, right, because of what has been going on. This is how we got to a courtroom in the first place,” Deters said. “But when it came down to all three verdicts, it was based on evidence and facts one hundred percent.”
Belton Hardeman added: “Race was not even mentioned in the three and a half weeks we were in that room, and I don’t think it was mentioned during the deliberations.”
The camera doesn’t lie
Videos of bystanders, surveillance video from across the street, and video from outside the store where Floyd was detained on May 25, 2020, were crucial. They captured the nine-plus minutes Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
“The camera doesn’t lie,” Belton Hardeman said. “And it was in slow motion at times while you were sitting there in court … So it was tough. But it played a huge role. It really did.”
The footage that went viral right after Floyd’s death was recorded by a young woman named Darnella Frazier, who came across the scene while going to the Cup Foods store with her cousin.
The encounter with the police began with Floyd buying a pack of cigarettes with a $ 20 bill that a store cashier believed to be a fake.
“Without those videos of bystanders something would have happened, but it would not have reached this level, I don’t think so,” Deters said, referring to Derek Chauvin’s eventual conviction.
Lisa Christensen added, “Without the Miss Frazier video, I don’t think we would be sitting here today, to be honest.”
“I don’t want to see that video again”
Watching the video over and over took an emotional toll.
“Sometimes I would go home and go into my room, lock the door and go to bed for the rest of the day. It was exhausting,” Christensen said. “Seeing someone go through what Mr. Floyd went through when it could have been prevented. I still can’t understand how a counterfeit $ 20 bill ended up in George Floyd’s death.”
Doud wanted to close his eyes the first time he saw the video in its entirety.
“It bothered me a lot,” he said. “How can someone do that to someone else? And it was a slow death. It wasn’t just a gunshot and he’s already dead.”
Doud withdrew from his relatives.
“It still has an effect on me to this day,” he said.
Deters also saw the entire video for the first time in court.
“In the back of my head I was saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God. Just breathe. Just breathe,” she recalled. “And then I think, ‘George Floyd couldn’t breathe.’
Mitchell wanted to close his eyes.
“I had to force myself to keep looking at him. You want to look away. You want to look at the wall. You really want to look elsewhere,” he said.
“But even when you look away you keep hearing him … him crying and moaning. And it’s like a continuous nightmare. It’s like you keep watching the video. I’m tired of watching it. I don’t want to see that video ever again.”
Belton Hardeman recalled the moment in the video where prosecutors said Floyd was dead.
“I had a big sigh,” he said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. I don’t think any of us have. It was very, very traumatic. And it hurt … it hurt my whole soul, my whole body. And I felt pain for his family.”
About a week after the trial, Christensen said, he visited the street outside the Cup Foods store where Floyd took his last breath.
“I paid my respects. For me it was closure, or at least I thought it was going to be closure,” he said. “We saw it all in court and in the videos, but being there and seeing it seemed … real. It helped me close the door a bit. But it will always be with me.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism