Attorneys for four former Minneapolis officials charged with the death of George Floyd say each client should get their own trial as officials try to diminish their role in the black man’s arrest by fingering each other demonstrate
Prosecutors say that all four officers should be tried together because the nature of the charges and evidence are similar and “it is impossible to evaluate the conduct of an individual defendant in a vacuum”.
The former officials are due to appear in court on Friday for a hearing on a variety of subjects, including the prosecutor’s request for a joint trial. Other issues discussed include defense requests to move the trial away from Minneapolis and confiscate the jury and keep the jury anonymous.
Floyd, who was handcuffed, died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to his neck when Floyd said he could not breathe and became motionless. Chauvin is charged with second degree murder, third degree murder, and manslaughter. Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao are charged with assisting both murder and second degree manslaughter.
Defense motions to dismiss charges will not be considered in Friday’s hearing. A trial is planned for March.
Friday’s hearing is also the first time chauvin is expected in a courtroom. He is in state custody and has attended previous videoconferencing hearings.
Prosecutors say the case should move to trial because the evidence – including testimony, body camera video, and police agency guidelines on the use of force – is similar for every officer. Prosecutors say the officials also acted in close coordination.
“Here, all four of the defendants worked together to murder Floyd: Chauvin, Kueng and Lane held Floyd undercover while Thao prevented the crowd from intervening so the other defendants could maintain their positions. The defendants also discussed and coordinated their actions throughout the incident, ”the prosecutor wrote in a court case.
Prosecutors also say that witnesses and Floyd’s family members would likely be traumatized by multiple lawsuits and that it would be more efficient and in the interests of justice to hold a trial.
Defense lawyers, however, are pushing for separate trials, saying they are likely to offer “antagonistic” defenses, and evidence against one officer could negatively affect another’s right to a fair trial.
Attempts to point the finger are already common in all court records. Lane and Kueng’s attorneys have argued that their clients were newbies who followed Chauvin’s lead. Thao’s attorney, Bob Paule, said his client’s role was “utterly different” from the others because he was crowd control and secured the scene – while the other three held Floyd back.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, also wrote that his client’s case was different. Nelson said prosecutors would need to prove that Chauvin intended to attack Floyd, but they must also show that the other officials knew of Chauvin’s intent before it happened. As a result, Chauvin has to defend himself differently.
“The other defendants clearly state that if a crime was committed they neither knew about it nor were there any help,” wrote Nelson. “You’re blaming chauvin.”
But Chauvin also points his fingers at the others. Nelson wrote that Lane and Kueng – the officers who responded to a fake call – contacted Floyd before Chauvin and Thao arrived and that Chauvin believes Floyd overdosed on fentanyl. Nelson wrote that while Lane and Kueng were calling for a medic, believing Floyd was “on something,” they had not elevated the call to more urgent or medical assistance.
“Instead, they fought to subdue Mr. Floyd and force him into their patrol car, which likely made his condition much worse,” wrote Nelson, adding that Chauvin could reasonably argue that their inaction led to Floyd’s death.
“If EMS had arrived just three minutes early, Mr. Floyd might have survived. If Kueng and Lane had chosen to de-escalate instead of fighting, Mr. Floyd might have survived. If Kueng and Lane had recognized the obvious signs of an opioid overdose and provided assistance, such as giving naloxone, Mr. Floyd might have survived, ”wrote Nelson.
Lawyers for all four men have also moved to move the trial out of Minneapolis, stating that court public relations made it impossible for them to get a fair trial.
Bob Paule, Thao’s attorney, said in a trial that the state had tainted the jury pool by calling Floyd’s death a “murder”. Paule also cites protests that caused millions of dollars in damage in Minneapolis, saying that an impartial jury cannot be found in Hennepin County because the jury “would bear the weight of their decision, which will lead to further riot and destruction.”