Posts Mislead on Words of Alternate Juror in Chauvin Trial
By Angelo Fichera
Posted on April 23, 2021
An alternate juror in the trial of Derek Chauvin said she initially had “mixed feelings” about jury duty, because of concerns about “disappointing” either side and the possibility of “rioting.” She said she “would have said guilty,” but as an alternate did not participate in the verdict. Social media posts now use her words to erroneously imply that a juror admitted outside pressure was a factor in the verdict.
On April 20, jurors in the trial of Derek Chauvin convicted the former Minneapolis police officer of three charges in the killing of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The verdict followed a weeks-long trial in which prosecutors laid out the case that Chauvin, a white officer, killed Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest last May.
But a popular headline and social media posts gaining traction online are now misrepresenting the words of an alternate juror in the trial — who did not have a role in deciding the verdict — to falsely imply that a juror voted to find Chauvin guilty because of external social forces.
“‘I Didn’t Want to Go Through the Rioting’: Juror in Chauvin Trial Makes Stunning Admission over ‘Guilty’ Verdict,” an April 22 headline published by BeckerNews.com reads. The same story was also published on the website TrendingPolitics.com. The two links were collectively shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle analytics data.
The story at one point falsely claims that the juror “outright admitted that jury intimidation played a major part in the trial.”
On Twitter, Jack Posobiec, a correspondent for the right-wing channel One America News Network, shared the BeckerNews.com story, writing: “‘I did not want to go through rioting and destruction again and I was concerned about people coming to my house if they were not happy with the verdict’ – Chauvin juror makes stunning admission.” It was retweeted more than 4,700 times.
Jenna Ellis, who served as a lawyer for former President Donald Trump’s campaign, retweeted a post of the quote in question (which attributed the words to “one juror”) and added: “Tell me more about how this trial was fair and the jury wasn’t at all coerced.”
But the posts misrepresent and omit context about who made the quote and to what it was in reference.
As we said, the quote came from an alternate juror. She did not participate in rendering the verdict, since she was dismissed after closing arguments. And she was speaking about completing a questionnaire at the start of the trial.
Addressing whether she wanted to serve on the jury at the start of the trial, the alternate juror, Lisa Christensen, specifically said that she “didn’t know what the outcome was going to be” and “either way the outcome was, you’re going to disappoint one group or the other.”
KARE 11, April 22:
Raguse: Did you want to be a juror?
Christensen: I had mixed feelings. There was a question on the questionnaire about that and I put I didn’t know. Because the reason, at that time, was, obviously, I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, so I felt like either way the outcome was, you’re going to disappoint one group or the other. So, I didn’t want to go through this whole rioting and destruction again and, you know, a little concerned about people outside my house if they weren’t happy with the verdict.
So it’s wrong to suggest, as the viral headline claims, that a juror made a “Stunning Admission over ‘Guilty’ Verdict.”
As we said, Christensen was an alternate juror and the “stunning admission” was her acknowledgement of some initial uncertainty about whether she wanted to serve on the jury.
While the BeckerNews.com story claimed that “Christenson outright admitted that jury intimidation played a major part in the trial,” she actually said in the same KARE 11 interview that she did not believe any external pressures were at play.
Raguse asked her whether she thought “outside forces would’ve played a role at all in your decision.”
“I don’t,” she responded. “I feel like we took this trial very seriously, we didn’t want anything to go wrong. I feel like none of us watched the news or were on our phones [on] social media or anything. We did not discuss it among any of us, so I wasn’t aware until afterwards, when I got released, the magnitude of everything.”
Christensen did say that after hearing the evidence presented at the trial, she “would have said guilty” if she had been part of the deliberations.
“With that said, however, at the end the judge did read us the rules for deliberation, but it was pretty quick, to me, I mean I didn’t absorb everything. So, I would have said guilty on some level,” she said. “After I was excused, I did not look at the jury instructions any longer. So I don’t know [how hard that process was,] but I feel like he’s responsible.”
Raguse responded to Posobiec’s tweet of the BeckerNews.com story to make note of its misleading nature.
“You took that out of context,” he said. “Shocking.”
In another tweet, Raguse said Christensen “clearly was not afraid. She was just explaining her questionnaire answer that she did not know if she ‘wanted’ to be a juror. Both attorneys ferreted out her feelings on it in voir dire and she acknowledged she wasn’t truly worried about anything. So they seated her.”
Voir dire is a process in jury selection in which lawyers on both sides can question potential jurors to determine if they are suitable to serve.
Christensen was referred to during the trial as Juror No. 96, and the Star Tribune reported that during jury selection “she pledged under defense scrutiny that she could presume Chauvin innocent as the law requires her to do. She said she believes the criminal justice system works most of the time.”
Allen, Jonathan, et al. “Minneapolis jury convicts ex-policeman Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd.” Reuters. 21 Apr 2021.
“Lisa Christensen from Chauvin jury speaks: Extended interview.” YouTube. KARE 11. 22 Apr 2021.
Raguse, Lou. “‘I wish it didn’t have to happen’: Alternate juror reflects on Derek Chauvin trial.” KARE 11. 22 Apr 2021.
Raguse, Lou (@LouRaguse). “She clearly was not afraid. She was just explaining her questionnaire answer that she did not know if she “wanted” to be a juror. Both attorneys ferreted out her feelings on it in voir dire and she acknowledged she wasn’t truly worried about anything. So they seated her.” Twitter. 23 Apr 2021.
Raguse, Lou (@LouRaguse). “You took that out of context. Shocking.” Twitter. 22 Apr 2021.
“Voir dire.” Legal Information Institute. Cornell University. Accessed 23 Apr 2021.
Walsh, Paul and Hannah Sayle. “Who are the jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial?” Star Tribune. 19 Apr 2021.