The four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd will be tried together, a judge decided Thursday. He also rejected the former officer's requests to move the case outside of the Minneapolis area.
The defense attorneys for Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng argued that the pretrial publicity of the case had made it impossible to have a fair trial in the Minneapolis area. They had further claimed it was unsafe for the participants, as evidenced by a protest ahead of their Sept. 11 hearing in the case. They also noted a jury may face threats as well, potentially affecting their ability to decide the case.
Floyd, a Black man, died on Memorial Day in police custody. His death sparked protests across Minneapolis and around the world.
Chauvin, who was captured on cellphone video kneeling on Floyd's neck for several minutes, faces a second-degree murder charge. Lane, Thao, and Kueng face charges of aiding and abetting in Floyd's death.
The defense attorneys for for the four former officers maintained each man should stand trial individually.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill wasn't convinced of those arguments.
"The sustained levels of media attention show no sign of abating, and there certainly will be a swell of media coverage surrounding the proceedings and verdict in the first trial," no matter if that trial involves one or all of the defendants, Cahill said in his decision to keep the men together.
If there were four separate trials, finding a "fair and impartial" group for each case would be far more difficult after the first trial concludes, he said.
"Because of this, joinder is a critical safeguard to help protect the fairness
of a jury trial, which strongly supports a single trial, rather than four separate trials with four separate juries," he said in his decision.
Cahill in another decision also allowed video cameras and livestreaming into the courtroom during the trial, ensuring further public attention and scrutiny of the case.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement Thursday that he was satisfied with Cahill's decision.
"The murder of George Floyd occurred in Minneapolis and it is right that the defendants should be tried in Minneapolis. It is also true that they acted in concert with each other and the evidence against them is similar, so it is right to try them in one trial," Ellison said.
He went on to say, "the rulings today represent another significant step forward in the pursuit of justice for George Floyd and for our community."
The trial is scheduled to begin March 8, 2021.
Kueng's attorney Thomas Plunkett said, "We are continuing to review the courts orders. My goal is to assure that a fair trial occurs for Mr. Kueng."
He added he's happy to have the order to start preparing for trial and to present "the truth in front of a jury."
Attorneys for Chauvin and Lane declined to comment for this story. An attorney for Thao couldn't be reached.