Chau­vin to be tried sep­a­rately in death of Floyd

- Amy Forliti Con­tribut­ing: Gretchen Eh­lke in Mil­wau­kee Crime · Incidents · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Minneapolis · Hennepin County · District Court · J. Alexander

MIN­NEAPO­LIS – A for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer who held his knee to the neck of Ge­orge Floyd for sev­eral min­utes will be tried sep­a­rately from three other for­mer of­fi­cers ac­cused in Floyd’s death, ac­cord­ing to sched­ul­ing or­ders filed Tues­day.

Derek Chau­vin will stand trial alone in March, then the other three will be tried to­gether in the sum­mer, ac­cord­ing to the or­ders filed in Hen­nepin County Dis­trict Court.

Judge Peter Cahill cited the lim­i­ta­tions of phys­i­cal space dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic for his order to split the de­fen­dants’ tri­als. It is “im­pos­si­ble to com­ply with COVID-19 phys­i­cal re­stric­tions,” given how many lawyers and sup­port per­son­nel would be present, Cahill wrote.

Last week, pros­e­cu­tors asked Cahill to post­pone the trial from March 8 to June 7 to re­duce pub­lic health risks. In his order Tues­day, the judge wrote that although the pan­demic sit­u­a­tion may be greatly im­proved by June, “the Court is not so op­ti­mistic given news re­ports de­tail­ing prob­lems with the vac­cine roll­out.”

Cahill cited a re­quest from Chief Judge Tod­drick Bar­nette af­ter last week’s hear­ing to re­con­sider hav­ing all four de­fen­dants tried in March.

Bar­nette wrote that the court­room could han­dle up to three de­fen­dants at once.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 af­ter Chau­vin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was hand­cuffed face down on the street. Po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Floyd used a coun­ter­feit bill at a nearby store. Floyd pleaded with of­fi­cers for air, say­ing he couldn’t breathe.

Floyd’s death led to protests in Min­neapo­lis and else­where and calls for an end to po­lice bru­tal­ity and ra­cial in­equities.

Chau­vin is charged with sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree man­slaugh­ter in Floyd’s death. For­mer of­fi­cers Tou Thao, J. Alexan­der Kueng and Thomas Lane each are charged with aid­ing and abet­ting sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, as well as aid­ing and abet­ting sec­ond-de­gree man­slaugh­ter.

De­fense at­tor­neys ar­gued last year that the of­fi­cers should be tried sep­a­rately, since each of­fi­cer might seek to di­min­ish his role in Floyd’s ar­rest and death by point­ing fin­gers at the other of­fi­cers. Pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued against di­vid­ing the trial, say­ing the ev­i­dence against all four is sim­i­lar, the of­fi­cers acted to­gether and the pub­lic and wit­nesses should be spared the trauma of mul­ti­ple tri­als.

Thao, Kueng and Lane are sched­uled to stand trial to­gether be­gin­ning Aug. 23.

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