Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in May, will be tried separately from three other officers also implicated in Floyd's death. The AP reports that, according to orders filed in Hennepin County District Court, Chauvin will stand trial in March, and he will do so alone. The three other officers — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — will all stand trial together later in the summer.
The coronavirus pandemic appears to be the biggest reason for this decision, as Judge Peter Cahill cited physical space limitations due to the spread of the virus as the cause for splitting up the defendants into two separate trials. It is "impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions," he wrote, given how many attorneys and support personnel that would have to be present for a trial of four defendants. Previously, prosecutors requested that Cahill postpone the March trial until late June, to give the spread of COVID-19 time to slow.
In his filing, Cahill stated that, while it is plausible the infection rate will be down by the summer, "the Court is not so optimistic given news reports detailing problems with the vaccine rollout." Cahill also referenced a request from Chief Judge Toddrick Barnett, regarding having all four of the defendants tried in March. Barnette wrote that, in his opinion, the courtroom would be able to safely hold trial for three defendants at once.
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee to the neck of George Floyd for several minutes, will be tried separately from three other former officers accused in his death, court documents show. https://t.co/pMC0xg0K3x— The Associated Press (@AP) January 12, 2021
On May 25, Chauvin and the other three former officers were placing Floyd under arrest as bystanders filmed. Floyd could be seen lying on the ground, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck while Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe. He eventually lost consciousness and was later transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Following Floyd's death, an initial report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner stated that "no physical findings" were discovered to support "a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation" as Floyd's cause of death.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other former officers are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Thao, Kueng and Lane are scheduled to stand trial together in late Aug. 23.