State calls for Floyd trials to be rejoined, held this summer amid COVID-19 concerns

Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao. J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. The four former Minneapolis police officers are charged in the death of George Floyd. (FOX 9 / FOX 9)

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the prosecution is calling for a Hennepin County District Court judge to reconsider his decision to split the George Floyd case into two trials for the four former Minneapolis police officers charged in his death.

Last week, Judge Peter Cahill ordered that Derek Chauvin's trial will begin on March 8, while the trial for Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane will begin on Aug. 23. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Thao, Lane and Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

In his ruling, Cahill stated due to the amount of lawyers and staff needed, it would be "impossible" to follow COVID-19 social distancing restrictions if there was only one trial.

However, Tuesday, the state filed a motion asking the judge to consider re-joining the trials as one and hold the trial later this summer. To make their case, they called upon University of Minnesota epidemiologist Dr. Mike Osterholm for his expertise. Osterholm is also a part of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 taskforce.

In an affidavit, Osterholm stated holding Chauvin's trial in March could become a superspreader event and have "potentially catastrophic consequences for public health."

"This is so not simply because of the (relatively small) number of people who would be inside the courtroom, but also because of the large numbers of people likely to be convened outside the courthouse, including demonstrators," wrote Osterholm.

He stated the recent appearance of a new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant is a concern for further spread before enough Minnesotans have received the COVID-19 vaccine. He also argued one trial would lead to less hearings and less possible exposure to those in attendance.

"From a public health perspective, it would be substantially safer to hold one combined trial in the summer of 2021 than two separate trials in March 2021 and August 2021," wrote Osterholm in an affidavit.