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What’s it like to be a juror? Former murder trial juror explains

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- As the Derek Chauvin murder trial plays out on national television, it brings back memories from another courtroom.

In 2003, then Bethel University senior Dave Berggren was summoned to serve jury duty for Ramsey County. It was a first degree murder trial.

"I still think about it all the time," Berggren said, more than a decade later. "And I think about the defendant and the families and the court proceedings and the whole thing."

The trial took about a week and a half. During that time, Berggren says he had to absorb and internalize a lot.

"It was days of expert testimony and ballistics and blood splatter and all the kind of criminal science part of it," he said.

Dave Berggren (left) was summoned to serve jury duty for a murder trial in 2003. Listening to proceedings in the Derek Chauvin trial brings back memories. "It's brings back memories hearing Judge Cahill say 'pack your bags.' Packing a bag and going to court and not knowing how long its going to take," Berggren said.

Berggren says it was like nothing he had ever experienced as a college senior.

"Everyday you're trying to learn something and take in as many things as possible," Berggren continued. "And it was a giant duty. And I certainly felt the weight of it."

Over the course of opening statements, arguments and rebuttal, Berggren says he shared an intimate experience with complete strangers. During the trial, he says himself and his fellow jurors were instructed not to talk about the case.

"You can't pick up your phone and call your mom or your dad or your friend. 'What are you thinking, how are you leaning when you think about the case.' You can't talk about it at all," he said.

Berggren and his fellow jurors spent an entire day delibarting. When the night drew closer, they were sequestered. No T.V., no phones and no radio.

"I was bunking up with another fellow juror," Berggren said with a chuckle. "...And it's not like 'hey, let's hit the hot tub.' You are locked in your room. And if you open the door, there's a state trooper. So, they really lock you down."

It's an experience he still carries today.

"I've done live T.V reporting. I do a lot of public speaking. I have had plenty of opportunities to be nervous," Berggren said. "But, the most nervous I've ever been was walking back into that court room. We were going to be changing this defendant's life forever. He was going to spend the rest of his life in prison."

With deliberation beginning soon for the Chauvin trial, he empathizes with everyone involved.

"It's streaming on T.V. and we can tune in, but it's not entertainment. These are real people with a weighty decision on their hands. I'm feeling for the lawyers, the judge, the defendant, the families involved and the jury."

Berggren encourages anyone who is summoned to serve jury duty to take the experience seriously.

Beret Leone

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