Hennepin County trials to proceed Wednesday, backlog of 41 cases

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has decided not to appeal the case of two men awaiting trial, relieving a backlog of 41 defendants in jail awaiting trial.

Prosecutors had argued Tuesday the two men could not receive a public trial under the 6th Amendment due to the onerous precautions of the pandemic and the security restrictions surrounding the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.

Judge Kerry Meyer found despite restrictions, public access would still be afforded, and ordered Tuesday for both cases to proceed. That decision was stayed while the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office considered an appeal by noon Wednesday.  

"We now accept the Court’s position and are satisfied that the public has access to any trials other than the State vs. Chauvin trial," the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said in a press release.

The trial of Derelle Todd will begin jury selection immediately Wednesday. Todd is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Miguel Viveros Morales, 28, last October in North Minneapolis.

The trial of Arnold Cole, charged with attempted second-degree murder stemming from a stabbing at a Bloomington light rail station in September, will begin Monday.

That will begin relieving a backlog of 41 defendants at the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center awaiting trial. 

In her order, Judge Meyer said trials can proceed in five courtrooms that are large enough for six feet of distance. One of those courtrooms is currently being used for the Chauvin trial, and another is being used for a civil trial.   

Those courtrooms allow for a total of six chairs in the gallery for observers, and if those are not being used by family members they can be used for the press or general public. There is also overflow space in two large rooms at the Family Justice Center four blocks away.  

Prosecutors had argued that if convicted, both Todd and Cole could argue they were not provided a public trial guaranteed under the 6th Amendment.  

But defense attorneys for the men argued that they asked for a speedy trial, and that the trial of a white police officer who posted $2 million bond should not be prioritized over the rights of two Black defendants who could not make bail.