Former Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, will not be tried with the other officers who are also responsible for George Floyd‘s death.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic for the reason for his ruling.
Chauvin is being charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Chauvin’s brother-in-law, Tou Thao, are being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Derek Chauvin is going to trial in March, meanwhile, his co-defendants will be tried in August.
In November Cahill had a different tune and said it would be best to try all four officers together because the jury will have “all of the evidence and the complete picture of Floyd’s death.” But he had a change of heart as coronavirus cases rise.
NPR obtained court documents that state, “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.”
Cahill also cited issues of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and advised to take precaution when scheduling the trials of the other officers. “COVID-19 continues to be a public health emergency,” the court said. “While the State believes the situation will be greatly improved by June due to vaccinations, the Court is not so optimistic given the news reports detailing problems with the vaccine rollout.”
Prosecutors are unhappy with this ruling and was hoping that Derek Chauvin will be tried with his co-defendants. “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,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement.
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