Pine River-Backus graduate, 25, serves on Chauvin murder trial

Journee Howard is second juror to talk about trial

Journee Howard, a 2014 Pine River-Backus High School graduate, now lives in Minneapolis and was a juror in the Derek Chauvin murder trial there. Submitted Photo (July 2021)
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When Pine River-Backus graduate Journee Howard learned she was a potential juror for the state's highest profile murder trial, she didn’t hesitate to embrace the opportunity.

"I was completely shocked and ecstatic to have the opportunity to maybe even be considered to do something like that," Howard said by telephone Friday, July 16.

A 2014 PR-B High School graduate who's lived in Minneapolis for the past two and a half years, Howard was chosen as one of the 12 jurors in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. She and her fellow jurors found Chauvin guilty in April of murdering George Floyd in May 2020.

Asked why she decided to talk to the media about her experience - she's only the second juror to do so - Howard said it wasn’t anything profound.


"I was completely shocked and ecstatic to have the opportunity to maybe even be considered to do something like that."

— Journee Howard on being a juror for the Derek Chauvin murder trial

"I just kind of felt like I was ready to share my experience and my point of view," she said, noting it gave her the opportunity to address what she saw on social media and answer questions.

For example, she wanted to address the idea that the time jurors took to come to their decision was based on external factors of repercussions.

"We were just as surprised as everyone else when it ended up being so fast," she said.

When the jury selection process began in March, Howard - who turned 25 during the trial - didn't tell her family in Pine River for their well-being and safety.

"I didn't want to put that stress on them," she said. "They found out halfway into doing it and then their reaction was proud and concerned for my safety. They were just praying for me."

"Regardless of what I had seen or heard, I was willing to set any previous biases aside and hear the facts of the case and do it to the best of my ability."

— Journee Howard on being a juror for the Derek Chauvin murder trial


Her mom, Jen Howard, said they are all proud of Journee.

"When I figured it out I was extremely concerned for her safety," Jen Howard said via Facebook messenger. "I Googled the jurors on the case and the description was her to a T. Then I realized she was in papers around the world. That was overwhelming."

"As soon as I could physically hear her voice I was better. She is so strong and fearless," she said of her daughter.

Howard was Juror No. 9, described as a multiracial woman in her 20s who grew up in northern Minnesota and as a "go-with-the-flow, open-minded type of person."

She believes she was chosen as a juror because she made it clear she had a neutral mindset. Though no one is completely unbiased, neutral and down the middle, Howard said, she is open-minded and doesn't lean far one way or the other politically.

"As soon as I could physically hear her voice I was better. She is so strong and fearless."

— Jen Howard, Journee Howard’s mom

"Regardless of what I had seen or heard, I was willing to set any previous biases aside and hear the facts of the case and do it to the best of my ability," she said.

This was Howard's first time serving on a jury.


"Even if I hadn't been on such a high profile case, I'm sure I would have found it fascinating," she said, urging anyone who has the chance to be a juror to do so.

From start to finish, the trial was well organized, Howard said. From the judge to his righthand man to officers escorting jurors, everyone was kind and easy to talk to.

Regarding emotions, "Obviously it was very, very tense. From the first day when we walked in we could feel the tension in the air," she said.

Some trial days were a bit mundane when they went over the same policies; others were extremely difficult when they watched the video of the incident over and over.

"Having to watch and listen and pay attention to key points people said and watch body language - sometimes it was gut-wrenching to watch over and over again," Howard said.

Every day was different, and anxiety would build not knowing what was going to happen the next day.

Howard said people may have thought it would be difficult to avoid social media and the news as a juror, but it was easy because she just wanted to decompress every night.

Waiting for the verdict to be read was nerve-racking.

"It was the most intense five minutes of my entire life," Howard said, adding she didn't realize jurors had to say "yes" out loud to each verdict.

"Just that 'yes' was - oh man - it was intense. I was looking around the room, looking at the other jurors. I could just see everyone's chest rising and falling," she said.

Howard doesn't take it lightly that the jury found a man guilty of murder, even though they believe they made the right decision.

"You're still sentencing someone to prison," she said.

It sounds wrong to say you feel bad, but it's still hard to know you are a part of the reason why the rest of a person's life is going to be changed, even though that person is responsible because of his actions, she said.

After the verdict was read, Howard said it felt like a 10 billion pound weight was lifted off everyone's shoulders. Some cried because so much emotion was finally released, and they could finally talk to others about all they'd kept bottled in for weeks.

"It was extremely, extremely emotional when the verdict was read," she said.

Howard said one thing she learned from the experience is that not everything is what it seems. Experiencing the trial firsthand and then seeing news stories and social media posts afterward was eye-opening. One 30-second clip of what a witness said showed a lot was taken out of context, she said, noting she now takes what she reads in the news and social media with a grain of salt.

After hearing so many witnesses talk, she also learned the importance of actively listening to people's versions and points of view.

"To see, feel and hear what they're trying to say is definitely huge. I don't know if I'm a great listener, but I'm better at hearing what they have to say," Howard said, noting when people hear what they don't want to hear they dismiss it or talk over people. "I definitely have learned personally how to hear people out."

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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