Tribune “Did you participate in Black Lives Matter events in 2020? If so, did you hold up a sign and what was it saying “ ? These questions are included in a fourteen-page questionnaire sent by the Hennepin County, Minnesota, court to potential jurors in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Tens of millions people had then demonstrated across the United States, forming the largest social movement in the history of the country.
The jury selection process faces a major obstacle: how to define impartiality in such a symbolic and high-profile case? Presumed innocent until the court delivers its verdict, Derek Chauvin is entitled, as US justice requires, to a fair and impartial trial. Its lawyers and prosecutors can screen potential jurors if they are seen to be biased even before the trial begins.
The questions posed to potential jurors speak volumes about the complexity of identifying impartiality in this case. To regard participation in a demonstration against police violence as a mark of bias, of prejudice, betrays the supremacist ideology which structures and still dominates the American justice system: in a society where the institutions were established so that the fact of being white either the norm, anti-racist combat or black identity are seen as non-neutral, as militant and radical.
13% of the population but 35% of the incarcerated population
Why would holding up a sign saying that the lives of black people count amount to blindness in a case of police violence? Does thinking that discrimination persists in American society exclude respecting the presumption of innocence? Derek Chauvin’s lawyers, in their selection of jurors, try, between the lines, to argue that openly opposing racism here represents a bias and an obstacle to justice in the context of this trial.
Among the questions sent, one invites us to assess the relevance of the following comments: “The justice system discriminates against ethnic and racial minorities. Discrimination in arrests, in trials and in prison are facts proven and documented by numerous works in history, law, sociology and anthropology, which denounce a system which criminalizes and punishes people of color disproportionately.
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