The former officers are due in court on Friday for a hearing on several issues, including the prosecution’s request to hold a joint trial. Other issues that will be debated include defense demands to move the Minneapolis trial away and sequester the jury and keep the jurors anonymous.
Floyd, who was handcuffed, died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes, as Floyd managed to say he couldn’t breathe and pleaded for mercy, while the spectators begged the officer to stop.
The other officers were involved in various ways in restraining Floyd or pushing away spectators, one of whom was filming the fatal incident in a video that went viral and sparked mass protests.
Chauvin is charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter. Thomas Lane, J Kueng and Tou Thao are accused of aiding and abetting second degree murder and of aiding and abetting manslaughter.
Defense requests to dismiss the charges will not be dealt with at Friday’s hearing. A trial is scheduled for March 2021.
Friday’s hearing will also mark Chauvin’s first appearance in a courtroom. He is state detained and has attended previous hearings by videoconference.
Prosecutors say the case should proceed with a single trial because the evidence – including witness statements, body camera video, and the police department’s use of force policy – is similar for each policeman. Prosecutors say the officers also acted in concert.
“Here, the four defendants worked together to assassinate Floyd: Chauvin, Kueng and Lane pinned Floyd face down, while Thao prevented the crowd from intervening, allowing the other defendants to hold their positions. The defendants also discussed and coordinated their actions throughout the incident, ”prosecutors wrote in a court file.
Prosecutors also said witnesses and Floyd’s family members would likely be traumatized by multiple trials.
But defense lawyers are pushing for separate trials, saying they are likely to offer “adversarial” defenses, and evidence against one officer could negatively affect another’s right to a fair trial.
Attempts to point fingers are already prevalent throughout the court filings in the case. Lawyers for Lane and Kueng argued that their clients were new agents, who were following Chauvin’s lead.
Thao’s lawyer, Bob Paule, said his client’s role was “absolutely distinct” from the others, as he controlled the crowd and secured the stage – while the other three restrained Floyd.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, also wrote that his client’s case is different. Nelson said prosecutors had to prove Chauvin intended to assault Floyd, but also had to show the other agents were aware of Chauvin’s intention before it happened.
“The rest of the accused make it clear that if a crime has been committed, they were not aware of or participated in it,” Nelson wrote. “They blame Chauvin.”
But Chauvin also points the finger at others. Nelson wrote that Lane and Kueng, the agents who answered the initial call from a store owner who suspected Floyd of trying to use counterfeit money, contacted Floyd before Chauvin arrived. and Thao, and Chauvin thinks Floyd was overdosing on fentanyl.
Nelson wrote that while Lane and Kueng called a paramedic and believed Floyd was “on to something,” they did not elevate the call to an emergency or medical assistance.
“Instead, they struggled to overpower Mr. Floyd and force him into their car, which likely exacerbated his condition considerably,” Nelson wrote, adding that Chauvin could reasonably say their inaction had leads to the death of Floyd.
“If EMS had arrived three minutes earlier, Mr. Floyd might have survived. If Kueng and Lane had chosen to de-escalate instead of struggling, Mr. Floyd might have survived. If Kueng and Lane had recognized the apparent signs of an opioid overdose and rendered assistance, such as administering naloxone, Mr. Floyd may have survived, ”Nelson wrote.
Lawyers for the four men also called for the trial to be moved from Minneapolis, saying pre-trial publicity prevented them from getting a fair trial.