“It was just dark. It felt like every day was a funeral and watching someone die every day,” Mitchell told CNN. “It was tense every day. I wasn’t nervous, but it was stressful. It was a lot of pressure.”
The 31-year-old basketball coach is the first juror that deliberated in the trial to speak out about his experience. Lisa Christensen, an alternate juror, spoke to reporters last week.
Due to increased media attention and the “unprecedented” levels of emails that attorneys in the case have reported receiving that are “frequently incendiary, inflammatory, and threatening in nature,” Judge Peter Cahill ordered on Friday that the names of the jurors not be released for at least six months.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted on all charges in the death of Floyd, on whose neck he knelt for more than nine minutes during an arrest. He faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s death sparked months of protests and a national reckoning over policing and racial bias in the US. And Mitchell, a Black man, said he knew the decision the jurors made would become part of history.
“We haven’t seen an outcome like this on a case. I really think this is a start and I think it’s a good start,” he said. “And then, all the attention that it is still getting. Just keeping that magnifying glass there has to spark some kind of change.”
Inside the courtroom
Mitchell, who first shared his story with Grammy Award-winning gospel artist Erica Campbell, wrote in his jury questionnaire he wanted to serve as a juror “because of all the protests and everything that happened after the event. This is the most historic case of my lifetime, and I would love to be a part of it,” he wrote.
Early in the trial, Chauvin had a confident look — but that didn’t last as testimony came out, Mitchell said.
“As the case went on his demeanor kind of changed to more of a confused look as this isn’t how it’s supposed to go,” he said. “I didn’t see any remorse.”
A particularly strong moment in the prosecution’s case came when pulmonary expert Martin J. Tobin testified to Floyd’s last moments, explaining when he lost consciousness and when he says the video shows Floyd losing his life.
“Once Dr. Tobin was finished with his testimony, I felt like the trial was done. He spoke everything in laymen’s terms, and it made sense,” he said.
Tobin testified that restraints on Floyd continued for about three minutes even after he stopped breathing.
“During the opening statements, I was curious or find out what the defense was going to bring to the table and convince us jurors. I didn’t see any avenues to which they could go.”
When it came time to deliberate, Mitchell told Campbell that the hours were spent primarily arguing with one person raising doubts as to Chauvin’s guilt.
“I felt like it should have been 20 minutes,” he said.
In the wake of the attention and weighty deliberations, Mitchell told CNN he has been decompressing.
“Now that it’s been a few days, I’m starting to feel back to myself,” he said.