MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A Hennepin County District Court judge has granted a motion to join the cases of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd into one case.
Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd died on May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police. A bystander video showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck as he cried out repeatedly that he could not breathe. All four officers were fired the following day.
One trial for all four officers
Judge Peter Cahill granted the state’s motion Wednesday to join all four case into one and hold one trial.
In his ruling, Cahill wrote that a single, joined trial will ensure a jury understands all of the evidence and the complete picture of Floyd’s death and will allow everyone to absorb the verdicts at once.
"The reality is, it makes sense. It’s easier," said Michael Bryant, a criminal defense attorney not connected to the case. "COVID again plays a role. You don’t want to do four trials versus one."
The trial date has been tentatively set for March 8.
Trial stays in Hennepin County, for now
Cahill preliminarily denied the defense’s motion to change the venue for the trial, keeping it in Hennepin County.
The defense teams for all four former officers filed motions earlier this year to move the trial out of Hennepin County to counties outside the Twin Cities area, arguing the jury pool has been tainted by media coverage of Floyd’s killing.
In his ruling Wednesday, Cahill said he would rehear the motions at a later date.
Cameras allowed in courtroom for trial
In a rare move, Cahill says he will allow full, live broadcasting of the court proceedings in the trial of the four officers.
Up to three cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. All three will be operated by one media organization and the footage will be shared with all other media outlets.
Minnesota courts have notoriously blocked video coverage of proceedings, allowing cameras in the courtroom typically only at sentencings when all parties consent or a judge rules in favor of it. The defense had argued video coverage of the proceedings are necessary to ensure a fair trial for Chauvin, Kueng, Lane and Thao.
Anonymous jury with partial sequestration
Cahill ordered the identities of the jurors be kept anonymous until the conclusion of the trial.
He also ordered the jury be partially sequestered during the trial and fully sequestered while they are deliberating.
"The court may order full sequestration of the jury at any time if the partial sequestration proves ineffective in keeping the jurors free from outside influence," the order reads.
Hennepin County Attorney's Office can stay on prosecution
At a pre-trial hearing in September, Cahill disqualified Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and three other attorneys from his office from participating in the prosecution during the trial, saying they were now witnesses because of a private meeting they had with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
Cahill vacated that order Wednesday, allowing the Freeman and the three other attorneys to stay on the prosecution of the cases. However, he ruled they may not appear as advocates in the trial and may not sign any motions or pleadings.
Timeline of George Floyd case
May 25: George Floyd dies in Minneapolis police custody.
May 26: All four officers involved in Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane—are all fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after a bystander video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes goes viral.
May 29: Chauvin is arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
June 3: Chauvin’s charges are upgraded to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Thao, Kueng and Lane are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All four officers involved in Floyd’s death are now in custody.
June 4: George Floyd’s memorial service is held at North Central University in Minneapolis. It was a star-studded event capped off by a moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
June 10: Lane is the first officer to be released on bail.
June 6: The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s report rules Floyd’s death a homicide. The updated report states that Floyd experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers.
June 15: A new 911 call transcript shows a 911 dispatcher called a Minneapolis police sergeant over her concern of the way officers were handling the deadly arrest of George Floyd the evening of May 25.
June 19: Kueng is released on bail.
June 29: All four officers appear in Hennepin County District Court for an omnibus hearing. Judge Peter A. Cahill sets a March 8 trial date.
July 4: Thao is released on bail.
July 7: The attorney for Thomas Lane files a motion to dismiss the charges against him, arguing there is not enough evidence to establish probable cause the former rookie officer committed a crime.
Lane and J. Alexander Kueng’s body-worn cameras, transcripts of the body camera videos and photos of the interior of George Floyd’s vehicle were all submitted as exhibits supporting the motion.
July 9: Judge Peter Cahill issues a gag order in the cases against all four former officers after at least two attorneys talked to the media.
July 15: Judge Cahill allows the media and public to view the footage from the body-worn cameras of former officers Lane and Kueng. The videos were available to view by appointment only and reporters were not allowed to record or share the body camera videos.
On the same day, George Floyd’s family files a federal civil rights wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and its police officers.
July 21: Judge Cahill dismisses the gag order after the defense argued it was not fair to the four former officers after so much had already been said about their actions. He also decided not to sanction Attorney General Keith Ellison, who the defense said violated the now-dismissed gag order about the case when he sent out a news release to the public introducing his full prosecutorial team.
July 29: The attorney for Thao files a motion to dismiss the charges against him, arguing there is not enough evidence to establish probable cause.
Aug. 7: Judge Cahill orders the body-worn camera footage from fired officers Lane and Kueng to be released to the public.
Aug. 10: The body-worn camera videos from former officers Lane and Kueng are released to the public. In the videos, Floyd appears alarmed by having Lane’s gun in his face when the officers approached his driver’s side window. The gun and its positioning appear to set the events in motion as Floyd becomes agitated and upset.
Aug. 12: The State of Minnesota files a motion to join the cases of the four Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s death into one prosecution. The move means there would be one trial for all the officers, rather than four separate trials.
Aug. 13: The body-worn camera video from former officer Thao is released to the public. The video shows Thao trying to control the crowd while his fellow officers restrained George Floyd during the deadly arrest.
Aug. 14: The video of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s interrogation of former officer Thao is released. In the video, which lasts nearly two hours, Thao recounts what led up to George Floyd's death and that they went to Cup Foods as backup, saying they know the area to be dangerous. Thao told the BCA it was his suggestion they put a handcuffed Floyd onto the street after twice failing to put him, panicked and complaining of claustrophobia, into the back of a squad vehicle.
Aug. 18: The video of the BCA’s interrogation of former officer Lane is released.
Aug. 27: The attorney for J. Alexander Kueng files a motion to dismiss the charges against him and a motion to change the venue for the trial.
Aug. 28: The defense attorneys for Derek Chauvin file a motion to dismiss the charges against the former officer. In the court documents, the attorneys cite a lack of intent to prove the second-degree murder charge, saying the officers were acting to keep George Floyd under control and that Chauvin followed training when taking Floyd into custody.
Chauvin’s attorneys as well as those for Thao also file a motion asking for the location of the trial to be moved. The attorneys argue an impartial jury cannot be found in Hennepin County.
At the same time, the prosecution files a court document seeking longer sentences for all four officers charged in Floyd’s death.
Sept. 8: The attorney for Thomas Lane files a motion for a change of venue for the trial. The defense attorneys representing all four officers also file an objection to the state’s motion to join all four cases and hold one trial.
Sept. 11: A motions hearing is held in the case, but Judge Cahill does not address the motions to dismiss the charges against the officers nor does he rule on either the state’s motion to join all for cases into one trial nor the defense’s motion to change the venue of the trial.
The judge disqualifies Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and three other prosecutors in his officer from the case over a private meeting they had with the medical examiner, saying it makes them witnesses.
Oct. 7: Chauvin is released from jail on $1 million bond. All four officers charged in Floyd’s death have now been released from jail.
Oct. 15: An evidence hearing is held in the case. Judge Cahill rejects the state’s motion to restrict public access to new filings in the case for two business days before they can be released.
Body camera video of a 2019 arrest of George Floyd is released to the public. The defense is motioning to submit the footage of Floyd’s prior arrest as evidence, claiming it shows similar behavior from Floyd toward police as his deadly Memorial Day arrest.
Oct. 22: Judge Cahill dismissed the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, but denied the motion to dismiss the other charges against him. Chauvin remains charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Cahill also denied motions to dismiss the charges against the other officers.