Minneapolis, MN – The judge handling the case of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged with the death of 46-year-old George Floyd warned prosecutors on Monday that he would move the trial out of Hennepin County if they didn’t stop running their mouths.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill stopped short of issuing gag order against the attorneys on June 29 but warned that if prosecutors didn’t stop discussing the case publicly, he would have no choice but to grant a change-of-venue motion, the Associated Press reported.
“The court is not going to be happy about hearing about the case in three areas: media, evidence, and guilt or innocence,” Cahill said.
The judge told Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank to use his influence to silence public officials who continued to openly discuss the case or he would “have to pull [trials] out of Hennepin County and they need to be aware of that,” the Associated Press reported.
Cahill set a March 8, 2021 trial date for the officers if they are tried together; however, he said he expected to see motions asking to have the officers’ cases separated.
Former Minneapolis Police Officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Kueng are scheduled to next appear in court on Sept. 11, the Associated Press reported.
Former Officer Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death during his arrest. His charges have since been upgraded to second-degree murder.
On June 3, former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder for their role in Floyd’s arrest.
None of the officers have entered a plea yet, the Associated Press reported.
Chauvin is being held on a $1 million bail, and Thao is being held on $750,000 bail.
Lane and Kueng, who were in the first week as police officers when Floyd died, have been released on bond.
The judge also rejected a defense request to reconsider his earlier decision not to allow cameras in the courtroom for pre-trial proceedings, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors have objected to the coverage and Minnesota law requires the consent of all parties.
But Thomas Plunkett, attorney for Kueng, argued that prosecutors had forfeited their right to object to having cameras in the courtroom after they went around making comments “saying the defendants are guilty of murder,” the Associated Press reported.
Plunkett said that electronic coverage of the pre-trial proceedings would let the potential jury pool know there was more than one side to the story and make it easier to find a fair jury.
Floyd’s death occurred after the officers responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that Floyd had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli.
Store employees pointed out the suspect to police and they arrested him.
The complaint used to charge Chauvin said Floyd actively resisted arrest and then fought being put in the back of a police car once he had been handcuffed.
Viral cell phone video showed then-Officer Chauvin and three other officers holding Floyd on the ground.
The video showed Officer Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time the suspect lost consciousness.
Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he was unresponsive.
Floyd was pronounced dead 90 minutes later at the hospital.
After three days of violent riots and looting that left Minneapolis and its sister city, St. Paul, in flames, the state investigative agency announced it making an arrest.
Chauvin was taken into custody by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension four days after the incident and held on a $500,000 bond, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced, according to WCCO.
According to charging documents, the medical examiner’s preliminary report found no physical evidence that Floyd had suffered from asphyxiation or strangulation at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
The preliminary autopsy findings indicated Floyd had died from a combination of his underlying medical problems and possible substances.
“The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” according to the complaint.
But veteran forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden told reporters on Monday at the Floyd family press conference that his independent autopsy determined that the man had died of asphyxiation much in the same way Eric Garner died from a choke hold in New York in 2014, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The Eric Garner autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him.
But the final autopsy findings released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office hours later confirmed that Floyd had died from heart failure.
“Cause of death: Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” Floyd’s autopsy said. “Manner of death: Homicide.”
“How injury occurred: Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the report continued. “Other significant conditions: Arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use.”
The toxicology results showing fentanyl and methamphetamine directly contradicted assertions by the forensic pathologist that Floyd’s family’s attorneys hired to dispute the initial medical examiner’s report.
And a postmortem nasal swab showed that Floyd tested positive SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, according to KSTP. He had previously tested positive for COVID-19 in April 3.
Protests erupted in the Twin Cities after Floyd’s death, leaving both Minneapolis and the state’s capital of St. Paul burned, looted, and destroyed.
Rioters overran and torched the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct where the officers accused of Floyd’s homicide were assigned.
Protests spread across the United States, and became very violent in major cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Portland, Oakland, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, DC.