Judge Orders Release of Jurors Names in Derek Chauvin Trial

On October 25, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill ordered the release on November 1 of the names of the 12 jurors who signed the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin earlier this year plus (a) the names of the two alternate jurors who were excused before jury deliberations commenced; (b) the names of the other 109 prospective jurors; (c) the questionnaires filled out by all of these individuals; and (d) the original jury verdict form signed by the jury foreperson. [1]

The Order had the following limitations: (a) the addresses and other contact information for the 14 sworn and alternate jurors will not be made public; (b) the Court reserves the right to redact from the completed juror questionnaires certain information, consistent with discussions with some of the jurors during voire dire, from the copy of the questionnaires publicly filed pursuant to this order; and (c) the information and documents being made public will only be available for inspection and copying at the Hennepin County Government Center; no remote access.

The Judge’s 31-page Order and Memorandum, which was soundly reasoned and well written, provided the background and reasons for this order. It set forth with abundant legal citations the Court’s legal conclusion:

  • “Although there is no absolute right of the press or public to access all records and information contained in court records in criminal cases, judicial records are presumptively public under Minnesota’s applicable court rules and the common law, warranting granting public access to some of the requested juror information sought by the Media Coalition in light of the present facts and circumstances of this case.”

This legal conclusion was based upon the Court’s balancing “on a case-by-case basis . . . [of the following] competing considerations . . . the defendant’s constitutional rights to a public trial before a fair and impartial jury, the public interest in access to open judicial proceedings to monitor the manner in which justice is being administered, the press’ First Amendment rights, and jurors’ privacy interests and rights.”

This Order was prompted by a motion for such disclosure submitted by the Media Coalition of 16 local and national media organizations.

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[1]  Olson, & Xiong. Court order: Chauvin jurors’ names to be released Nov. 1 at courthouse, StarTribune (Oct. 25, 2021); Assoc. Press, Judge in Chauvin trial to release names of Jurors on Nov. 1, StarTribune (Oct. 25, 2021); Order and Memorandum Opinion on Media Coalition Motion To Unseal Juror Names and Associated Juror Information, State v. Chauvin, Henn. County Dist. Ct. File No. 20-12646 (Oct 25, 2021).