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Ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin to be tried alone in George Floyd death

Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin
Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged in the death of George Floyd in May.
(Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)

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

Chauvin will stand trial alone in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the other three former officers will be tried together in August, according to the orders filed in Hennepin County District Court.

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

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

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Cahill cited a request from Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette after last week’s hearing to reconsider the idea of having all four defendants tried in March. Barnette wrote that, in his view, 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. In a video widely seen on social media, Floyd could be heard pleading with officers for air, saying he couldn’t breathe.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, has posted bond and has been released from prison.

Floyd’s death in police custody sparked a nationwide reckoning with racial injustice and renewed calls for an end to police brutality.

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

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

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


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