Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin will stand trial alone starting March 8 while the other three other officers charged in George Floyd’s killing will be tried together in August, a judge ruled late Monday.
Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck on May 25 for more than eight minutes, killing him and setting off protests and riots across the country. The three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — who stood by as Floyd died, are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter and will stand trial beginning Aug. 23 under Monday’s ruling.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill issued his decision in response to a request from the prosecution to delay the four former officers’ case to June because the courtroom isn’t large enough to allow for adequate social distancing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has fought back against motions from the defense for separate trials for the four defendants, arguing it could prejudice jury pools and retraumatize witnesses to give testimony multiple times. In a statement, Ellison said he disagrees with Cahill’s ruling.
“While we are confident that the Court has established protocols to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during trial, we believe, and independent public health experts agree, that with the advent of the vaccine the threat will be significantly abated by mid-year for everyone participating in or with an interest in this case. Nevertheless, we are fully prepared and look forward to presenting our case to a jury whenever the Court deems fit,” Ellison said.
In his latest order, Cahill also stated that the prosecution has not acted improperly in turning over evidence to the defense. Chauvin’s attorney had accused Ellison’s office of intentionally providing documents in a disorganized fashion and with duplicates in order to hamper his ability to prepare his defense.