COVID-19 concerns prompt 2 separate trials in George Floyd case
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A separate trial will be held for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd because concerns over COVID-19 are too great to have all four ex-officers charged in the case go on trial in the same courtroom at one time, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
Jury selection for Chauvin’s trial will begin on March 8 and the trial itself will get underway by the end of the month. The trial for the other three officers—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane—will begin on Aug. 23. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
In his ruling, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said physical limitations of the largest courtroom at the Hennepin County Government Center "make it impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants" beginning on March 8 "given the number of lawyers and support personnel the parties have now advised the Court are expected to be present during the trial."
The prosecution and the defense came together on Thursday, Jan. 7 to argue their positions for delaying the George Floyd murder trial during a virtual, online hearing. None of the four defendants joined the feed, just their attorneys.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
AG disagrees with holding 2 separate trials
Attorney General Keith Ellison, the lead prosecutor in the state, is not happy with the court’s decision to sever the case into two separate trials nor the timing of the trials.
"As we argued several months ago, and as the judge agreed in his November ruling, we believe all four defendants should be tried jointly," he said in a statement. "The evidence against each defendant is similar and multiple trials may re-traumatize eyewitnesses and family members and unnecessarily burden the State and the Court while also running the risk of prejudicing subsequent jury pools."
The statement continues, "Nevertheless, we are fully prepared and look forward to presenting our case to a jury whenever the court deems fit."