MINNEAPOLIS – A former Minneapolis police officer who laid his knee on George Floyd’s neck for a few minutes will be tried separately from three other former officers accused of his death, according to an order filed Tuesday on COVID-19 sanctions. Limited court room due to.
Derek Chauvin will stand trial alone in March, while the other three former officers will be tried together over the summer. In his order, Judge Peter Cahill cited physical space limitations during the coronovirus epidemic, saying “COVID-19 is impossible to comply with physical restrictions” given how many attorneys and assistant personnel say four defendants will be present .
Prosecutors disagreed with the judge’s decision. A defense attorney for former officer Thomas Lane said he believed a separate trial would be better for his client, while other defense attorneys either declined to comment or did not return a message.
Legal observers say the benefit of the change benefits Chauvin’s co-defendants, who will get more time previews for state witnesses to say and prepare. They will also blame Chauvin, who will not accompany him to push back.
Last week, prosecutors asked Cahill to postpone the March 8 trial until June 7 to reduce public health risks associated with COVID-19. In his Monday order, which was filed on Tuesday, the judge wrote that while the state of the epidemic could improve a lot by June, “the court is not an optimistic given news report detailing the problems with the vaccine rollout” . “
Cahill’s order included an email from Hennepin County Chief Justice Toderick Baronet, who requested that the trial be set aside in a manner deemed to be Cahill, as he found out that each defendant had co-counsel or a plan of legal support in court Was made Barnett wrote that he looked at the configuration of the court and concluded that the social distinction could not be applied to that place with so many people. Barnett wrote that he believed the court could handle three defendants simultaneously.
Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was face down in the street. Police were investigating whether Floyd used a fake bill at a nearby store. In a widely viewed video on social media, Floyd can be heard pleading with authorities for air, saying he cannot breathe.
Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere and led to renewed calls to end police brutality and racial disparities.
Chovin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree murder in Floyd’s death. Former Officers Lane, Tu Thao and J. Alexander Kueng is charged with killing and assisting each other and preventing and assisting with second-degree murder.
Defense lawyers argued last year that the officers should be tried separately, but the prosecution argued against it.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is on trial, said on Tuesday that he disagreed with Cahill’s decision to set aside the trial and conduct Chouvin in March.
Ellison said in a statement, “The evidence against each defendant is the same and many lawsuits may give eyewitnesses and family members a befitting reply and subsequently unnecessarily burden the state and the court, creating a risk of bias to the jury pool Can. ” “It is also clear that COVID-19 will still be a serious threat to public health in 8 weeks time. … Nevertheless, we are fully prepared and look forward to presenting our case before the jury, whenever the court gives its verdict. “
Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said he thinks it is better for his client to conduct a separate trial than Chowin.
“In a joint trial, there is always a spillover effect, whatever it is. You know that each client is considered a jury to consider separately, but it is difficult for anyone to do so – common sense makes you Tells that, “Gray said.
Coueng and Chauvin’s lawyers did not comment. Thao’s lawyer did not provide a message seeking comment.
Mike Brandt, a criminal defense attorney who is not involved with the case, said Chauvin’s co-defendants would benefit from the ruling because they would get a preview of state witnesses and could improve their strategies. They will also have trial tapes, which can be “powerful” if a witness changes his story during the second trial.
In addition, he said, all three officers could raise fingers at Chauvin, who would not be in the same trial to defend himself.
If Chavin is acquitted, Brandt said, the other three officers can still be tried on aid and abusive calculations, but the case will become more difficult. Brandt said it is difficult for prosecutors to prove a case against those who could be considered less guilty if they could not convict the alleged lead actor.
Brandt also said that it is unlikely that all three officers will testify against Chowin during their trial, as they have the Fifth Amendment against self-harrassment. Even if prosecutors were to grant him immunity, officials could still face federal criminal charges for violating Floyd’s civil rights – and the immunity offered by the state would not apply in federal court .
Brandt said prosecutors want other officers to testify against Chauvin, not likely to offer immunity in the case.
“I hope it will be all or nothing. I don’t think they are going to make deals for anyone due to the high profile nature, “he said. “If it was a gang banger murder, are they making deals with less convicted people? Absolutely. But these are police officers.”
Thao, Kueng and Lane are scheduled to test on 23 August.
Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.