Video After The Jump
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee to George Floyd’s neck for minutes will be tried separately from the three other former officers accused in his death, according to an order filed Tuesday that cites limited courtroom space due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Derek Chauvin will stand trial alone in March while the other three former officers will be tried together in the summer. In his order, Judge Peter Cahill cited the limitations of physical space during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is “impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions” given how many lawyers and support personnel the four defendants say would be present.
Prosecutors disagreed with the judge’s decision. A defense attorney for former officer Thomas Lane said he believed a separate trial would be better for his client, while the other defense attorneys either declined to comment or did not return messages.
Legal observers say the change benefits Chauvin’s co-defendants, who will get a preview of what the state’s witnesses will say and more time to prepare. They’ll also blame Chauvin, who won’t be on trial with them to push back.
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.
Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere and renewed 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 Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.