Judge rejects appeals to move trials of former officers in George Floyd’s death

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A local judge in Minnesota has rejected requests made by the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of criminal suspect George Floyd to hold separate trials for each defendant and conduct the trials somewhere besides Minneapolis.

In a ruling that was “mostly beneficial to the prosecution,” Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill decreed that the four former officers — Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — must be prosecuted together in Hennepin County.

“Cahill issued a 51-page ruling on the issue of a joint trial that went against the motions of all four defense attorneys, who wanted the trials to be held separately for a number of reasons,” news station WWL reported.

“All defense attorneys in their motions said if individual defendants blame the other officers for Floyd’s death, jurors may become confused and just convict all of them, instead of considering individual roles in what happened.”

Plus, only one officer — Chauvin — had knelt on Floyd’s neck.

In defending his ruling, Cahill reportedly cited “the similarity of the charges and evidence” between all four defendants, the “potential impact on witnesses if they were forced to testify at four separate trials” and the public’s “interest.”

“The judge … considered the ‘collective interest of the people,’ writing that they will absorb the verdicts all at once as opposed to in piecemeal fashion which he said ‘is likely to compound and prolong the trauma to the community and the State,'” WWL reported.

It’s not clear though whether this ruling is fair to the actual defendants …

Cahill also reportedly rejected a change of venue request that would have allowed Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane to conduct their trial in another city.

The four officers had argued that conducting the trial at the Hennepin County Courthouse, which is located in downtown Minneapolis, would pose a threat both to the fairness of the trial and also their personal safety.

According to the Associated Press, their attorneys had argued that “pretrial publicity had made it impossible for the four men to get a fair trial in Minneapolis. They had also cited a Sept. 11 hearing in which the men and their attorneys were confronted by angry protesters outside the courthouse, saying it showed that holding the proceeding in the same area where Floyd died would be unsafe for participants.”

“Defense lawyers had argued that witnesses could be intimidated, and jurors could be affected by chants from a crowd outside,” the AP’s report continued.

In his ruling, Cahill claimed that relocating the trial would be more dangerous than holding it at Hennepin County Courthouse.

“The judge wrote that [the] safety concerns … are arguments for better security planning, and not for moving the trial to another community. In fact, Cahill wrote that moving the trial to a smaller courthouse in a different community could actually be more dangerous as there would be fewer entrances and exits, and easier access to the former officers and their legal team,” WWL noted.

The four defendants did have one request granted, though. Because of concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Cahill ruled that cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. While a number of rules will be in effect preventing the cameras from filming jurors or children, the cameras will still be allowed to capture the essence of the trial, i.e., the arguments from the defense and the prosecution.

The assumption is that the defendants want the public to hear their side of the story directly versus via an establishment media that tends to be more concerned with seeking “moral clarity” than with reporting the objective truth.

For those interested in watching the trial, it’s slated to begin March 8th, 2021.

Chauvin reportedly faces charges of unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, whereas the other three former officers reportedly face charges of aiding and abetting.

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Vivek Saxena

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