Judge warns of pos­si­bly mov­ing trial in Ge­orge Floyd death

Miami Herald - - Front Page - BY STEVE KARNOWSKI As­so­ci­ated Press


A Min­nesota judge on Mon­day warned that he’s likely to move the tri­als of four for­mer po­lice of­fi­cers charged in Ge­orge Floyd’s death out of Min­neapo­lis if pub­lic of­fi­cials, at­tor­neys and fam­ily mem­bers don’t stop speak­ing out about the case.

Hen­nepin County Judge Peter Cahill stopped short of is­su­ing a gag or­der against at­tor­neys on both sides, but he said he likely will if pub­lic state­ments con­tinue that make it hard to find an im­par­tial jury. Cahill said that would also make him likely to grant a change-of-venue mo­tion if one is filed, as he an­tic­i­pates.

“The court is not go­ing to be happy about hear­ing com­ments on these three ar­eas: mer­its, ev­i­dence and guilt or in­no­cence,” Cahill said.

It was the sec­ond pre­trial hear­ing for the of­fi­cers, who were fired after

Floyd’s May 25 death. Derek Chau­vin, 44, is charged with sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and other counts, while Thomas Lane, 37, J. Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, are charged with aid­ing and abet­ting Chau­vin.

Floyd died after Chau­vin, a white po­lice of­fi­cer, pressed his knee against the hand­cuffed 46-year-old Black man’s neck for nearly eight min­utes. The of­fi­cers were re­spond­ing to a call about a man try­ing to pass a coun­ter­feit $20 bill at a nearby store. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world.

Thao’s at­tor­ney, Robert Paule, cited re­marks from a va­ri­ety of pub­lic of­fi­cials say­ing they thought the of­fi­cers were guilty, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Keith El­li­son and Mayor

Ja­cob Frey.

Po­lice Chief Medaria Ar­radondo has called Floyd’s death “mur­der“and said Chau­vin knew what he was do­ing be­cause of his train­ing. Gov. Tim Walz and Frey have also called it mur­der.

Cahill asked As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Matthew Frank to use his in­flu­ence to keep pub­lic of­fi­cials silent, warn­ing that if they con­tinue to dis­cuss it pub­licly, he likely would “have to pull (the tri­als) out of Hen­nepin County and they need to be aware of that.” But he also made it clear that he wants de­fense at­tor­neys and Floyd fam­ily mem­bers to stay out of the press, too.

Cahill set a March 8 trial date for the for­mer of­fi­cers if they are tried to­gether, though he said he ex­pects mo­tions to be filed to sep­a­rate their tri­als. If they’re tried sep­a­rately, those still in cus­tody — cur­rently Chau­vin and Thao — would most likely go first. The next court date is Sept. 11.

The de­fen­dants have not en­tered pleas. Chau­vin’s at­tor­ney has not com­mented pub­licly on the charges, while Lane’s and Kueng’s at­tor­neys have sought to min­i­mize their clients’ roles and de­flect blame to the more se­nior Chau­vin in Floyd’s death. Kueng’s at­tor­ney said in a court fil­ing Mon­day that he in­tends to plead not guilty and that he will ar­gue it was self-de­fense, a rea­son­able use of force and an au­tho­rized use of force.

Chau­vin re­mains in cus­tody on $1 mil­lion bail and Thao is be­ing held on $750,000 bail. Lane and Kueng are free on bond.

Cahill re­jected a de­fense re­quest to re­con­sider his ear­lier de­ci­sion to pro­hibit cam­eras in the court­room dur­ing pre­trial pro­ceed­ings. De­fense at­tor­neys asked for the cam­eras, say­ing it would help bal­ance what the pub­lic has heard about the case, but pros­e­cu­tors ob­jected. The judge has not ruled on whether to al­low cam­eras for the trial it­self, but has said he is open to it.

The charges against Chau­vin are un­in­ten­tional sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, third-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree man­slaugh­ter. Sec­ond-de­gree mur­der car­ries a max­i­mum penalty of 40 years in prison, third-de­gree mur­der car­ries up to 25 years and man­slaugh­ter up to 10.

The other three for­mer of­fi­cers are charged with aid­ing and abet­ting both sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree man­slaugh­ter. Those charges are legally tan­ta­mount to the counts against Chau­vin and carry the same penal­ties.

After the hear­ings, Sel­wyn Jones, Floyd’s un­cle, said he found it “to­tally hideous” that Lane and Kueng made bail, while

“my nephew will never have a chance to be free ever again. … I’m not mad at any­body, I just think we need to fix the sys­tem. Racism needs to go, po­lice bru­tal­ity def­i­nitely needs to go, and we need to find some kind of equal­ity and care for each other.”

JERRY HOLT Star Tri­bune via AP

Ge­orge Floyd’s aunt, An­gela Har­rel­son, speaks with re­porters out­side the Hen­nepin County Pub­lic Safety Fa­cil­ity on Mon­day in Min­neapo­lis. A judge warned that he’s likely to move the tri­als of four for­mer po­lice of­fi­cers charged in Floyd’s death if pub­lic of­fi­cials, at­tor­neys and fam­ily mem­bers con­tinue to speak out about the case.

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