In a pivotal victory for the prosecution, a judge in Minneapolis on Thursday ruled that four officers were charged with the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who breathed his last under his knees. A white officer on a street corner of Minneapolis in May, would go to court together.
The judge also ruled that the news media could broadcast the trial, scheduled for next spring, an unusual move in Minneapolis, where courts are often closed with cameras. The judge cites the coronavirus pandemic, the limited number of people who can be present in the courtroom at any time, and the great national and international interest in the case.
“The demonstrations for the justice of George Floyd continued,” wrote Judge Peter A. Cahill of Hennepin County in his ruling. “It is expected that, even with some overwhelming courtrooms, the needs of family members, the public and the press attending the joint trial will far exceed the ability to provide meaningful access. of the court. ”
Judge Cahill also said the trial will remain – for now – in the Twin Cities, though he remains open to the possibility of moving it later if the court is unable to arrange a jury without being affected by the publicity. that the case has created.
The defendants, including Derek Chauvin, the white officer who pressed Mr. Floyd to the ground for more than nine minutes, have asked the court to relocate, arguing that they would not be able to get a fair trial at Minneapolis for public and widespread protests against racial injustice Mr. Floyd’s death began in Minneapolis and across the country, as well as around the world.
Minneapolis case-tracking experts say they believe Judge Cahill is determined to keep the case in the Twin Cities, understanding that rescheduling will most likely cause new protests and fears of a jury. less diverse. Such a move would recall the history of the Rodney King case in Los Angeles of 1992. The trial of the police beating Mr. King was moved to a mostly white suburb, leading to his acquitted of assault leading to riot.
Judge Cahill also ordered that jurors would remain anonymous, and said they would be partially quarantined during the trial and ordered to drive each morning to a safe location, from which they would be escorted to the courtroom. .
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office oversees the prosecution, said in a statement that he was pleased with the court’s decision.
“The murder of George Floyd happened in Minneapolis, and the defendants should be tried in Minneapolis,” he said. “It is true that they acted together, and the evidence against them was similar, so it was correct to try them in court.”
Mr. Chauvin, a 19-year veteran in the police force, was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and faces 40 years in prison if convicted.
Other officers, including two recruits who aided Mr. Chauvin in crushing Mr. Floyd on the sidewalk in front of a convenience store, were accused of assisting and assisting with second-degree murder. Former officer Tou Thao, who knelt to one side and kept away from the people around him screaming that Mr. Floyd was having difficulty breathing, was also charged with assisting and assisting in second-degree murder. All four former officers, who were fired after the incident, were released on bail.
Two rookie officers, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, were the first to arrive at the scene on the evening of May 25, after a convenience store employee phoned the police saying Mr. Floyd had tried. transfer a fake $ 20 bill for payment. cigarettes.
From the very beginning, Mr. Floyd, 46, was agitated and opposed to being put in the back of the team car, saying he was a stuffy man. After Mr. Chauvin arrived, Mr. Floyd was placed face down on the street, where he kept saying he couldn’t breathe.
When the outsiders gathered, one of them recorded the scene with a cell phone camera; In a video viewed around the world and causing weeks of turmoil in American cities, Mr. Floyd went on to say he couldn’t breathe and called his mother. By the time the paramedic arrived, Mr. Floyd was limping and seemed out of breath. He was later declared dead at the hospital.
One of Mr. Kueng’s attorneys, Thomas C. Plunkett, said that while the judge’s ruling went against their wishes for a separate trial and relocation, “we are very pleased to have an order for them. I can start preparing for my trial and tell the truth to a jury. ”
Earl C. Gray, Mr. Lane’s attorney, and Eric Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s attorney, declined to comment on the judge’s rulings. Thao’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
All four former officers have requested a separate trial and suggested in court records that they blame each other for Mr. Floyd’s death. In addition, the prosecutor asked for a trial, arguing that multiple trials would hurt Mr. Floyd’s family, the witnesses and the larger community, which had to face for weeks. Unrest in the street after the death of Mr. Floyd.
In his ruling that ordered a trial, Judge Cahill noted that the pleadings for all four defendants focused on similar arguments: that the use of force to subdue Mr. Floyd was just and what Mr. Floyd’s death was caused by drugs found in his people. basic health and system.
Medical examiners have ruled Mr. Floyd’s death a murder of “cardiopulmonary arrest” from Mr. Chauvin’s knee, with other causes considered contributing factors.