Trial for 3 former officers charged in George Floyd's killing delayed until March
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MINNEAPOLIS - A judge on Thursday delayed the planned August trial for the three former Minneapolis police officers accused of aiding and abetting Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, potentially allowing a federal civil rights case against all four to proceed first.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said during a motion hearing that the joint trial for Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao would be moved to March 7, 2022.
Cahill cited the need for additional time to deal with pending issues in the case and clarity on the timing of federal proceedings, suggesting that he thought the federal trial should proceed first. He also said there was a need for "some distance" from the Chauvin proceedings, citing the intense publicity surrounding the case and the effect it could have on jury selection.
"The bottom line is that we aren't going to trial in August," Cahill said.
Attorneys for Kueng, Lane and Thao said their clients did not oppose the delay. Matthew Frank, an assistant Minnesota attorney general, said prosecutors wanted to proceed with the Aug. 23 trial date.
The decision comes days after a federal grand jury indicted all four former officers on federal civil rights charges, saying they violated Floyd's constitutional rights during an arrest May 25, 2020, when he was restrained, handcuffed and facedown on a Minneapolis street as he begged for breath before losing consciousness.
Chauvin, who pressed his knee into Floyd's neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds, was convicted last month of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. Floyd's Memorial Day slaying sent millions into the streets in protest last summer and sparked a national reckoning on race and policing. Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.
The other officers had been set to stand trial jointly with Chauvin before Cahill separated the cases earlier this year to meet coronavirus social distancing requirements in the courtroom.
Kueng and Lane, rookie officers who responded to a 911 complaint about the passing of a counterfeit bill at a local market, were the first to encounter Floyd at the scene. Lane pulled a gun on Floyd within 15 seconds of encountering him in a parked car near Cup Foods. He and Kueng later helped Chauvin restrain Floyd facedown on the street - Lane at his legs and Kueng at his back.
Thao, who was Chauvin's partner that night, held back bystanders, including an off-duty firefighter, who urged the officers to check Floyd's pulse and render medical aid.
Kueng, Lane and Thao, who were fired by the Minneapolis police department, are facing state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors have sought to add third-degree-murder charges against all three - which Cahill rejected. The state has appealed that decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which is scheduled to hear arguments on the issue this month.
Prosecutors have argued the three other officers had a duty to intervene and stop Chauvin from using deadly force on Floyd.
Attorneys for Kueng and Lane, who had been full-time officers for less than a week, have said their clients tried to intervene with Chauvin, a 19-year veteran who was the senior officer at the scene and had been Kueng's field training officer, but were rebuffed.
Lane's attorney has noted police body-camera video showing his client asking Chauvin whether they should roll Floyd onto his side - a request Chauvin rejected. Kueng later told Chauvin that he could no longer detect Floyd's pulse, yet Chauvin continued to press his knees into Floyd's body.
The three, who waived their right to appear at Thursday's hearing, remain free on bond pending their trial.