Prosecutors in the case against four Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd requested this week that the trial be delayed by three months citing concerns related to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
March 8 has been the date set for the trial to start before Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill for the four now-fired police officers charged in the death of Floyd on May 25 while he was forcibly detained on a south Minneapolis street corner.
Derek Chauvin, 44, Tou Thao, 34, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Thomas Lane, 37, are scheduled to be tried together. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, and the other three former officers are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
However, attorneys filed a motion to move the trial start date from March 8 to to June 7, arguing that putting it off “appropriately balances the need to protect public health with the need to ensure that this case is resolved expeditiously,” as reported by the StarTribune.
Waiting until then, the motion continued, “would substantially reduce the risks to trial participants from COVID-19, and thereby reduce the risk that this trial is delayed or disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak among the trial participants.”
The prosecution backed its motion with an affidavit filed with the court by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a member of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, who noted that “millions of Americans in the general population [are likely to] receive a COVID-19 vaccination between March 2021 and June 2021.”
He therefore reasoned that “large public gatherings—including those conducted with proper social distancing and mask protocols—will be substantially safer in June 2021.”
The doctor added, “An in-person trial in March 2021 that attracts a large number of people who are indoors for prolonged periods of time with public speaking is likely to create a substantial risk of COVID-19 transmission [and] could even become a super-spreader event.”
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, told the StarTribune that he does not plan on objecting to the prosecution’s motion.
Last month, Nelson made a motion for a delay in the trial and accused prosecutors of mishandling how they share evidence with the defense—including burying important information in between irrelevant material, providing duplicates of the same item and turning over thousands of pages of unrelated documents.
Keung’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said the prosecution’s motion citing COVID-19 as their reasoning was confusing.
“The timing of their motion seems curious to me,” Plunkett said. “The pandemic has been around for a while.”
In December, a judge in Minnesota upheld his decision to live-stream the trial against the four ex-Minneapolis police officers.
In a ruling issued on Dec. 18, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said that he is permitting video coverage of the trial due to immense global interest in the case and limited courthouse space amid the “unique and unprecedented situation” created by the CCP virus pandemic.
Cahill brushed aside concerns by state prosecutors, who argued in a motion filed Nov. 25 (pdf) that a live-stream of the trial would violate court rules and scare away potential witnesses.
Floyd’s death was classified by a county medical examiner as a homicide, with his heart stopping while he was restrained by police and his neck compressed. A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.”
A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family concluded he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.
His death sparked protests and riots that spread across the world and prompted Minneapolis to shift almost $8 million in police funding to expand other services, including crime prevention programs, mental health crisis response teams, and other initiatives.