MINNEAPOLIS — A woman who sat as an alternate on the jury that found Derek Chauvin guilty in George Floyd's murder is speaking out about what it was like to parse through nearly three weeks of testimony in the former Minneapolis officer's high-profile trial.
Brooklyn Center resident Lisa Christensen told KARE 11's Lou Raguse about her role on the jury, as another police killing unfolded in her neighborhood.
Christensen, who lives in the city where a white officer shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man during a traffic stop this month, said that if she had been part of deliberations, she would've found Chauvin guilty. But Christensen had no idea that she was one of two alternates until the judge dismissed her right before the 12 jurors were sequestered.
Read Christensen's account of how the trial played out below, and look through the detailed notes she took during the trial.
Photos: Juror notes from the Derek Chauvin trial
(Editor's note: Some of the transcript has been edited for clarity and flow.)
Raguse: Did you know that you were going to be an alternate in this case?
Christensen: No, I did not.
Raguse: Were you disappointed when you found out that you were an alternate?
Christensen: I was. I spent three weeks of my time, getting invested and going through all kinds of emotions. My heart broke a little when he turned and said, “Number 96, you’re an alternate."
Raguse: When you made it on the jury, how much did you know about the case and what were your thoughts on being a part of it?
Christensen: I saw the video, but not in its entirety. I saw it two or three times on the news. I do not use social media, so I did not post anything or see anything on there.
Watch below or click here: Extended interview with Lisa Christensen
Raguse: You are the perfect juror in that aspect. You came in with about as clean a slate as somebody can have, considering how big of a case this was.
Christensen: Yeah, I did tell them that I saw the settlement run across the bottom of the screen one day.
Raguse: What did that settlement mean to you?
Christensen: I knew it was a separate case. I knew civil cases are different with different rules, so it did not affect me. I was not surprised there was a settlement, but I was surprised they announced it beforehand.
Raguse: Did you want to be a juror?
Christensen: I had mixed feelings. There was a question on the questionnaire about it and I put I did not know. The reason, at that time, was I did not know what the outcome was going to be, so I felt like either way you are going to disappoint one group or the other. 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.
Raguse: What were your thoughts on the fact that the trial was televised?
Christensen: It made it more intense. At least, I thought that in the beginning. I'm glad it was, because it made it transparent, so everyone knows and cannot question what happened.
Raguse: You were an alternate, but would you have voted guilty or not guilty?
Christensen: I would have voted guilty. However, at the end the judge did read us the rules for deliberation, but it was quick, and I could not absorb it. I would have said guilty on some level. After I was excused, I did not look at the jury instructions any longer. I do not know how hard that process was, but I feel like Chauvin is responsible for Mr. Floyd’s death.
Christensen: I think the prosecution did a good presentation of their case. Dr. (Martin) Tobin was the one I really related to. I feel like all the doctors in one way or another said the same thing.
Raguse: Do you think the use of force was reasonable?
Christensen: I do not.
Raguse: Do you think that Derek Chauvin caused George Floyd’s death?
Christensen: I feel like the kneeling on the neck for so long did, yes.
Raguse: You heard a lot of testimony about use of force, was the force reasonable and did the knee cause Floyd’s death. Did it seem like those were the major questions that were presented to you?
Christensen: Yes, we heard a lot about the use of force, was it excessive, was it necessary, when do police officers stop it, and could it have been stopped at one point. I kept thinking about the critical decision-making model that was presented. It was in the back of my mind about how they said you must reassess constantly, and I felt like that was not done.
Raguse: Which witness convinced you that it was an unreasonable use of force?
Christensen: I thought (LAPD sergeant) Jody Stiger, the prosecution expert, did a good job of explaining it to us.
Raguse: Was it meaningful to you to have Minneapolis police officers testify against Chauvin?
Christensen: It was. Some of the trainers said, “I don’t even know what that is, we don’t train like that.” That was helpful to hear because they said they can use force, but it did not seem like they could use that type of force.
Raguse: When it came to the medical testimony, what was it about Dr. Tobin that was so impactful on you?
Christensen: He broke it down to where we could understand it. He had us demonstrate. We were all in the jury touching our necks and we could feel what he was trying to make us feel. What really did it was when he said, "right here at this point was when he (George Floyd) had that seizure and this is where he died."
Raguse: Was that a turning point for you in the trial?
Christensen: It was. I did consider the defense’s points about the enlarged heart, the narrowing of the arteries, the drug use. But regardless, I do not think he would have passed away on that day at that time.
Raguse: Was it ever any moments that it tipped toward the defense for you?
Christensen: On the first or second day, I feel like Mr. Nelson did a really good job. He was believable and brought out a lot of good points. When he said, “We are just concentrating on those nine minutes and 29 seconds and no one is talking about the 16 minutes prior," it was kind of an eye opener. I did listen to what he said, and I did think the officers were reasonable during the first 16 minutes, but when Mr. Floyd was put in the prone position on the ground it all seemed to go out of the window. It did not apply any longer.
Raguse: What was the key evidence in your opinion?
Christensen: The testimony by the experts, the forensics, and all the perspectives from the different videos. I think it would have been harder to understand exactly what happened, but the videos are what really nailed it.
Raguse: Which video stuck with you?
Christensen: The bystanders – Ms. Frazier's video. I think she was very brave to tape it and post it.
Raguse: Did her testimony impact you as well?
Christensen: It did. I was sitting closest to the door, so I was close to the witness stand. I know they were testifying, but I felt like I could feel it. It broke my heart when she said that she apologized to Mr. Floyd and she wished she did more to save his life. That is a lot for a 17-year-old to go through.
Raguse: Were you left with any lingering questions?
Christensen: At the very end, when no one really thought about the carbon monoxide issue. I was wondering why it was thrown in at the last minute. I did not know why they did not bring it up sooner if they were going to talk about it. Plus, nobody could say if the squad car was on or off.
Raguse: What was your impression of Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer?
Christensen: I think he did a really good job. I think he had a lot to do because it was him and the assistant. Then you look at the prosecution team and they have four lawyers, volunteers, and aides. They had a big crew compared to Mr. Nelson. I think he was credible and made a lot of good points.
Raguse: What was your impression of Steve Schleicher, the prosecutor?
Christensen: He was relatable. I think he took his time and presented stuff well. He was not trying to make us believe something, but rather bring it up and make us think about it.
Raguse: How about Jerry Blackwell?
Christensen: I thought he was very good. We made a comment about Johnnie Cochran Jr. in our jury room.
Raguse: How about Judge Cahill?
Christensen: He was very fair. I was very impressed with him. When we were dismissed, he asked us to come into his chambers out of pure courtesy. He did not have to do that, and I very much appreciate him reaching out to us. He showed concern and asked if we were OK, how they did, could they have done things better.
Raguse: What was your impression of Derek Chauvin?
Christensen: From where I was sitting, I could look up, and lock eyes with him. It made me feel a little uncomfortable. He had nowhere to look either, so it was just kind of weird. I do not think he was trying to make any gestures by that at all. I thought he was smaller in person. In the pictures that I had seen, he looked bigger and taller than what he was.
Raguse: How about his demeanor in the courtroom? Was there anything that you took from him, in person?
Christensen: I did not. Most of the time he was writing just as much as we were. I think he was trying to pay attention and maybe write down questions or concerns that he had to pass along to Mr. Nelson.
Raguse: What was your impression of him based off what you saw in the videos and heard from the testimony of the witnesses?
Christensen: The still picture from the video, where his hand is in his pocket, kind of got to me. Almost like he was thinking, "This is my job, don’t tell me what to do," and he was not going to listen to what anybody had to say because he was in charge. That bothered me a little bit.
Raguse: If he testified, would anything have changed your mind?
Christensen: No, I do not think he should have testified. I think the prosecution would have torn him up, so I think he made a good choice.
Raguse: There was another police shooting in your hometown during the trial. Did that impact you at all?
Christensen: It did not impact me as far as the trial went. However, only being about six blocks from the police department, I could hear everything. When I came home, I could hear the helicopters flying over my house... I could hear the flash bangs going off. If I stepped outside, I could see the smoke from the grenades. One day, the trial ran a little late, and I had trouble getting to my house, because the protesters were blocking the interstate, so I had to go way around. I was aware, but it did not affect me at all.
Raguse: Was it hard to avoid talking about this case or seeing it in the news while serving on the jury?
Christensen: I would just go home, so it was just me and my roommate. We might have said a few things, but not about the case.
Raguse: Did you get to know the other jurors at all? Can you talk about the collective experience?
Christensen: I got to know them a little bit, but it was hard because we did not talk about anything pertaining to the trial at all. We did not identify ourselves amongst each other, so we did not say our names, occupations, or anything about our families. We had to do small talk about the weather and have meaningless conversations.
Raguse: Are you aware that later this summer the other three officers are scheduled to be on trial?
Christensen: I heard that, yes.
Raguse: Based on what you saw in this trial, how do you think that will go for them?
Christensen: I think their trial is going to be impacted by this trial and the outcome of it. I think everybody played such a different role and everybody should be judged on their participation.
Raguse: When you say a tougher time, do you mean putting on the trial because of the publicity from this trial?
Raguse: As far as what you saw the other officers doing in the videos, do you think they played a role in George Floyd’s death and might be liable criminally for it?
Christensen: I think they played a lesser role. I think officer Lane brought to Chauvin’s attention twice asking, “Should we roll him over?” I thought that was important. He also said, “I think he is unconscious," so I think that officer Lane was aware and generally concerned.
Raguse: Why do you think that he did not do more to stop it?
Christensen: I think because Chauvin was a senior officer and I believe at one point their training officer, so I think it was a chain-of-command situation. Since he is their senior officer, I believe they thought they should just follow his lead. Plus, I think they were new police officers.
Raguse: If you could say anything to the family of George Floyd, what would you say?
Christensen: I would apologize to them. I really feel their pain and their struggle. I have not personally been to 38th and Chicago, but I think I will. It will be the final closure for me to pay my respects and let George Floyd know that we did the best that we could.
Raguse: If you could say anything to Derek Chauvin, what would you say?
Christensen: I am sad for him too. I wish it didn't have to happen. I do not know how it goes from a $20 counterfeit bill to somebody dying. He should have just written him a ticket and let him go. I think it got out of hand quick.
Cup Foods sent KARE 11 a statement during the trial, saying; "It is NOT Cup Foods protocol to send employees outside. It was because we had a good enough relationship with him (George Floyd) and we felt like he didn't know it was counterfeit. Also, we ONLY tell employees they have to pay for counterfeit bills if they don't check them as a 'deterrent' we've never made an employee pay for a counterfeit bill."