Derek Chauvin trial to be separate, now set for March 8 (Details)

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Derek Chauvin trial to be separate, now set for March 8 (Details)
Derek Chauvin trial to be separate, now set for March 8 (Details)

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will be separate from the legal proceeding of three other former Minneapolis officers charged in the May 2020 death of George Floyd.

Informjournal’s Lou Raguse first reported Monday that Chauvin’s trial will begin March 8, while Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane will be tried together in a proceeding set to begin Aug. 23.

That report was backed up by legal documents filed by the office of Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill Tuesday morning.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Fellow former officers 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.

Cahill’s latest legal order makes it clear that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and space limitations, even in Hennepin County’s largest courtroom, make it impossible to hold a trial for four defendants while complying with existing safety guidelines.

“The physical limitations of courtroom C-1856, the largest courtroom in the Hennepin County Government Center, make it impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants beginning March 8, 2021, given the number of lawyers and support personnel the parties have now advised the Court are expected to be present during trial,” Judge Cahill wrote.

The judge also stated that while the State believes that the COVID situation will be much improved by June due to vaccinations, the Court is not as optimistic given news reports detailing problems with the vaccine rollout.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is leading the prosecution, released a statement disagreeing with the court’s decision to separate the trials.

“We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision to sever three of the defendants from the other and its ruling on the timing of the trials,” Ellison said in his statement. “As we argued several months ago, and as the judge agreed in his November ruling, we believe all four defendants should be tried jointly. The evidence against each defendant is similar and multiple trials may retraumatize eyewitnesses and family members and unnecessarily burden the State and the Court while also running the risk of prejudicing subsequent jury pools.”

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