State prosecutors ask Minnesota Court of Appeals to rejoin case against former Minneapolis officers

MINNEAPOLIS — State prosecutors on Thursday asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to rejoin the cases against the four ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd after a lower court on two occasions refused their requests, court documents show.

On Jan. 11, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ordered Derek Chauvin to stand trial in March, while the other former officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao – will be tried separately in August, Law Officer reported.

Cahill noted, at the time, the difficulty with holding a joint trial due to COVID-19 safety measures.

A request from Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office accused Cahill of violating state law and abusing his power. Ellison is prosecuting the officers, who were fired soon after Floyd’s death.

Prosecutors asked the Court of Appeals to reverse Cahill’s decision and hold one trial in the summer due to virus concerns, Fox News reported.

“The District Court’s decision … to proceed with two trials creates a serious public health risk,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank wrote in his request to the Court of Appeals, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ” … District Court’s decision violates the law and threatens serious harms to public health.”

Moreover, Ellison’s office also filed a motion on Jan. 19 asking Cahill to reconsider his ruling, which the judge rejected two days later.

The Court of Appeals has up to 90 days to issue a decision, reports said.

Lane, Kueng, and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. All four officers have posted bond.

Minnesota judge
From left to right, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)

Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, told the paper that the Court of Appeals usually doesn’t get involved with cases before trial.

“The trial judge is supposed to be making the procedural decisions,” Daly said. “The Court of Appeals doesn’t like slowing down a trial … before a trial has even taken place.”

Earlier this week Cahill ruled that bodycam footage from a prior arrest of Floyd will not be admissible, Law Officer reported.

The judge denied motions to use Floyd’s past encounters with law enforcement as evidence in an order Tuesday.

On May 6, 2019, Floyd had allegedly swallowed “large quantities” of drugs “in an attempt to avoid arrest,” according to court records. He was also accused of “diversionary behavior such as crying and act[ing] irrationally.”

Defense attorneys for the four had sought to use Floyd’s behavior during the 2019 arrest and in connection with a 2007 robbery conviction as evidence.

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