By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Jurors who convicted Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd sat down to share their experience in the courtroom with CNN’s Don Lemon, just days before their names will officially be made public due to a court order.

Judge Peter Cahill’s order will make the names of all 15 jurors public on Nov. 1, along with the written questionnaires from all the 109 potential jurors. The seven jurors who spoke to Lemon said they wanted to do a single interview together, before their identities were released.

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Lemon’s interview with the five jurors and two alternates will air Thursday night, and will offer an inside look into how they came to the decision to convict Chauvin on all three counts, their desire to hear from Chauvin himself, and how they worry for their safety after Nov. 1.

Lemon also asked how the jurors felt about the racial implications of their decision.

“Race wasn’t even mentioned in the three-and-a-half weeks that we were in that courtroom. And it was never mentioned during deliberations,” said juror Sherri Belton Hardeman.

“I think we got here because of systemic racism within the system because of what’s been going on,” said juror Nicole Deters. “That’s how we got to a courtroom in the first place. But when it came down to all three verdicts it was based on the evidence and the facts, 100%.”

Before Lemon’s interview, two jurors and one alternate had come forward.

In an interview with WCCO shortly after the conviction on April 20, juror Brandon Mitchell shared the mental toll sitting in the courtroom had on him, saying that “you’re watching somebody die every day over and over again on video. You’re watching somebody die on instant replay, in real life.”

But Mitchell said he felt the responsibility, as a young Black man, to be in the deliberation room. The key testimony for him came from Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and breathing expert, who said that a healthy person would have died if they were restrained as Floyd was: lying prone, in handcuffs and with a knee pressed against his neck and back.

Alternate juror Lisa Christensen also came forward after the conviction, saying Tobin’s testimony, as well as eyewitness accounts were key to the prosecution’s case.

WCCO spoke again with Mitchell on Thursday. He says he wanted to help other jurors deal with the spotlight they are about to experience.

“I was there, helped put it together,” Mitchell said.

He says inside the deliberation room, jurors were so focused on the judge’s instruction that race was never the issue.

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“He gave us specific instructions on ‘just use the facts, use the facts, use the evidence,’ that’s it,” he said. “And I think we took this case so seriously, we tried to stay within those guidelines.”

Mitchell says all jurors agreed that the verdicts were not based solely on what Chauvin did — but also on what he did not do.

“There was a knee on the neck, there was something going on there, but also once this man is unconscious, the lack of care for this person, the lack of, there’s no CPR, there’s no type of anything to revive this human being,” Mitchell said.

Every member of the diverse group that sent Chauvin to prison for 22 ½ years is nervous about their names and images being shared around the globe.

Brandon Mitchell (credit: CBS)

“Some people really just want to stay in the peace of who they’ve been prior to the trial, and they want to just keep it like that,” Mitchell said. “Now with their names coming forward, it can be a little sticky whereas now they’re a public figure a little bit.”

Mitchell says he has spoken before about his experience, and will continue to speak out in hopes of being an example to others.

“I would like to see more Black people and people of color be on these types of juries and not necessarily trying to avoid it, but embracing it and getting on these jury panels so that more change can happen,” he said.

Mitchell says jurors did not know the entire world was watching until after they reached a verdict. He says the news and social media coverage the trial received was beyond any of their expectations.

The jurors convicted Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.

Chauvin has since filed an appeal for his conviction. He also faces a federal trial on charges alleging he violated Floyd’s civil rights by pinning him to the pavement with his knee.

Lemon’s interview with the jurors will air at 11 p.m. Thursday.

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Reg Chapman