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The 'Monumentally Hard Task' Of Selecting A Jury For Derek Chauvin's Trial

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A legal analyst explains why it's so hard to select a jury when the video evidence of George Floyd dying under the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer has been widely circulated. This photo is from a protest against police brutality in summer 2020

On today's program: Legal analyst David Harris breaks down the process of jury selection for the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer facing charges for the murder of George Floyd; as the country debates a minimum wage increase, the economist who published a landmark study comparing fast food restaurant employment in Pennsylvania and New Jersey revisits his research; and we hear how working women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

Last May, George Floyd died while being pinned under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. 

Over the summer, the nation’s attention turned to George Floyd’s killing, which sparked demonstrations across the nation, including in Pittsburgh. Now the nation is watching the trial of Chauvin, who is facing charges of 2nd degree unintentional murder, 3rd degree murder, and 2nd degree manslaughter.

“We’ve got a case here that everybody knows about, not just in the state of Minnesota but all over the country and the world.” says legal analyst and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris. “Selecting a jury that is a true cross section of the community and on which the jurors do not have their minds made up, that is a monumentally hard task.”

Harris says the judge anticipated this challenge, heavily screening jurors to ensure a fair trial. 

“The defense will still have arguments about whether the trial should be postponed, whether it should be moved out of that county, all for the purpose of assuring a fair jury,” says Harris. 

In June of 2018, Antwon Rose, a Black 17 year old, was shot and killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer. Harris says that trial faced some similar challenges in jury selection, but the video evidence from that case did not show the incident as clearly as the video from the Floyd-Chauvin case.

“Because of [the East Pittsburgh video], it gave jurors substantial pause and reasonable doubt about whether the officer was guilty, and they acquitted him,” says Harris. “There was also the same law that applied in Pennsylvania as it applies in Minnesota, and that is the reasonable officer standard, and that is simply a standard that favors the police.”


Revisiting the landmark minimum wage study that examined Pennsylvania and New Jersey employment
(7:16 — 13:17) 

The latest coronavirus relief package signed by President Biden earlier this month does not include a phased-in increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The wage increase was cut as a concession to get the relief aid passed through Congress. 

Increasing the minimum wage for Americans has been a contentious point among politicians and academics for decades. 

About two decades ago, a landmark study challenged the prevailing narrative that increasing wages had adverse effects on employment by analyzing hundreds of fast food restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

“When we designed the study there was an impending increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey and we thought it would be very helpful to have a study that had what scientists would call a control group, a set of fast food restaurants that weren’t affected by the minimum wage [in Pennsylvania],” says David Card, professor of economics and department chair at the University of California, Berkeley. Card is also the director of the Labor Studies Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

Card and economist Alan B. Krueger interviewed restaurants in Pennsylvania and restaurants in New Jersey before a minimum wage increase took effect in April, 1992. After the wage increase, they interviewed the restaurants again and found that employment did not dip in New Jersey restaurants, but stayed stable. 

“We showed that even back in 1994, '95 era there was a significant improvement in family income and some indications of a reduction in poverty rates when the minimum wage went up,” says Card. He and Krueger elaborated on studying who benefited most from a minimum wage increase in their book, “Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage.”

While a substantial federal minimum wage increase didn’t pass with the COVID-19 relief, Card says he sees cause for optimism among low-wage workers.

“I would not be surprised to see the federal minimum wage raised very modestly in the next year, maybe something like $8.75 or $9 an hour.”

Working women have been some of the most impacted in the pandemic
(13:20 — 18:0o) 

Across the country, women have shouldered extra loads during the pandemic.

They are much more likely to work on the front lines, more likely to have lost a job, and more likely to be picking up extra childcare responsibilities.

Keystone Crossroads’ Laura Benshoff talked to Pennsylvania women in the workforce about what they’ve lost, and what they say they need.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.


Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Isabelle is a student at George Washington University studying Political Communication. She loves all things Pittsburgh sports and serves as a sports anchor for GW-TV. In her free time, she enjoys museum hopping and walking her dog, Stevie.
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