FLOYD JUSTICE IN ’21
Judge sets ex-cops’ trial date, warns of venue change
Four former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s killing appeared at a tense court hearing Monday as the judge set a March 2021 trial date — and warned that a venue change is possible.
Derek Chauvin, 44, appeared by video from a maximum-security prison and reportedly spoke only to waive his right to a speedy trial.
Charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Chauvin is being held on $1.25 million bail.
The 19-year veteran of the force knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on May 25 as Floyd, handcuffed and stomach-down on the ground, repeatedly cried, “I can’t breathe,” according to prosecutors and graphic bystander video.
“I’m about to die,” and “Please,” Floyd begged as the 46-year-old father of five also called out for his deceased mother, according to Chauvin’s complaint.
Fellow fired cops J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Thomas Lane, 37, showed up with their lawyers after posting bail, while Tou Thao, 34, appeared in person and remains in custody.
All three are facing charges of aiding and abetting seconddegree murder and manslaughter.
Thao’s lawyer Robert Paule said he plans to file a motion to move the case to another venue after public officials, including Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, made statements calling Floyd’s death a “murder.“
“I’m fighting the battle with one hand,” Paule complained to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Cahill stopped short of issuing a gag order, but urged Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank to address the matter with public officials, saying pretrial publicity could force the court to transfer the case. “They are more than likely pushing this trial to a different venue if they continue to do so. More likely to push it out of Hennepin County, and they need to be aware of that,” the judge said, according to NBC affiliate KARE 11 in Minneapolis. “We are just as interested in a fair trial,” Frank reportedly replied. “We have done our best to make the court’s point to [Minneapolis officials] in hopes of putting an end to it as well. Legally, we don’t have control over them.”
The judge set a tentative trial date for March 8, 2021.
It’s not yet clear if the officers will be tried together or separately. That will be determined after motions on the issue are submitted and argued.
Floyd’s uncle Selwyn Jones attended the hearing and said outside the courthouse that he found it “totally hideous” Lane and Kueng made bail.
“My nephew will never have a chance to be free ever again,” he said, calling Floyd a “good dude” whose “story shouldn’t have ended in the streets of Minneapolis, Minn., by four people.”
“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,” he said.
Lawyers for Lane and Kueng have previously defended their clients as rookies.
They say Chauvin took charge as the most senior officer at the scene and refused to ease off Floyd’s neck as Lane held down Floyd’s legs and Kueng held down his torso.
Lane was working his fourth day on the job as a full-time police officer, while Kueng was working his third.
According to court paperwork, Lane asked Chauvin at one point, “Should we roll him on his side?”
“No, staying put where we got him,” Chauvin replied.
Kueng has since been released on $750,000 bail with conditions and was spotted buying Oreos at a grocery store in Plymouth, Minn., by a woman who confronted him over Floyd’s death and posted video of the tense exchange.
Lane also was released on $750,000 bail with conditions.
Thao, who was recorded standing watch over the deadly arrest and rebuffing bystander concerns, had not posted bail — $1 million bail without conditions or $750,000 with conditions — by Monday’s hearing.
Distraught aunt Angela Harrelson and uncle Selwyn Jones of cop chokehold victim George Floyd outside Minneapolis court Monday. Four former officers charged in Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin (top inset), and above from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, appeared at hearing.