Jan. 12 (UPI) — Derek Chauvin, one of four former Minneapolis police officers accused in the death of George Floyd last summer, will be tried separately from the other three defendants, a Minnesota judge has ruled.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said late Monday that Chauvin will alone stand trial in March, rather than allowing prosecutors to try all four together.
Chauvin, who was shown on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, faces charges of murder and manslaughter, both in the second degree.
The other three officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — will be tried together, but Cahill said that trial will be delayed until August. They are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Cahill’s ruling was a response to prosecutors’ request that the trial date for all four be postponed until June.
The video of Floyd’s death last May 25 spurred national demonstrations to call attention to systemic racism in the treatment of Black persons by law enforcement.
Cahill said the decision to try Chauvin separately was a result of COVID-19 restrictions at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. Defense attorneys previously said they’d intended to seat a larger legal team than originally planned.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is prosecuting the cases, disagreed with Cahill’s ruling. He said separate trials may “retraumatize eyewitnesses and family members” and risk “prejudicing subsequent jury pools.”
Ellison said COVID-19 will still be a health concern when Chauvin’s trial begins on March 8, but added that “we are fully prepared and look forward to presenting our case to a jury.”