A judge on Sept. 11 disqualified four prosecutors, including Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman, from being part of the cases involving the four police officers who arrested George Floyd in Minneapolis on Labor Day.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dealt with a number of motions and matters, including whether evidence regarding Floyd’s criminal history could be admitted during the trials.
Cahill disqualified Freeman and three others from the district attorney’s office from participating in the case because of a meeting they had with the medical examiner who determined Floyd’s cause of death with no outside attorneys present.
Senior attorney Amy Sweasy, attorney Andy LeFevour, and attorney Patrick Lofton were barred.
“It was sloppy not to have someone present. Those four attorneys are off the case,” Cahill said. “They are now witnesses.”
“Any suggestion by Judge Cahill that the work of Sweasy and Lofton was sloppy is incorrect. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office fully stands by the work, dedication and commitment of two of the state’s best prosecutors,” the office stated, with no mention of LeFevour.
The ruling is “meaningless” because the third party the judge said needed to be present doesn’t need to be an attorney, according to Hennepin’s office. Because Sweasy and Lofton asked to leave the case in June, they are valid third parties, the statement said.
The ruling was made because of a memo from Eric Nelson, an attorney representing former police officer Derek Chauvin, prosecutors said. Cahill “took the memo at face value” even though “the meeting was completely routine and if the ruling stands, would make it nearly impossible for prosecutors to obtain, understand and introduce evidence in a case,” the office stated.
Hennepin’s office said prosecutors asked Cahill to reconsider his decision and that officials are confident the order will be withdrawn or modified.
Cahill granted the reconsideration motion, Fox 9 reported. Dates for the reconsideration haven’t yet been set.
The hearing was the first time Chauvin and the other three former officers who were involved in Floyd’s arrest appeared at the same time.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder while J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting.
All four defendants have opposed a prosecution motion to consolidate their cases into one trial. They have requested that their cases be moved outside Minneapolis and have filed motions to dismiss the charges.
Cahill said it was premature to decide whether to move the trial. He said he wanted to send a questionnaire to potential jurors to see how they had been affected by media coverage, and whether a fair jury could be selected in Hennepin County.
Cahill said he was leaning toward having an anonymous jury, citing potential security threats. The judge said a trial would likely last six weeks, including two weeks for jury selection.
Reuters contributed to this report.