The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — charged with murdering African American man George Floyd — will begin as scheduled March 8, but his co-defendants will appear separately in late August, a judge ordered in a decision made public Tuesday.
Both the prosecution and defense had requested to postpone the start of the trial in the northern US state of Minnesota due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Even in the largest courtroom in the county, it would be “impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants,” judge Peter Cahill said in his decision.
He ordered the court maintain the original trial date for Chauvin, the 44-year-old white former officer who on May 25, 2020 knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes while Floyd protested that he couldn’t breathe.
The killing sparked protests and unrest around the US, with the shootings and deaths of other African Americans — including Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky — leading to fervent calls for justice.
Chauvin’s former colleagues Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, charged as accomplices, will stand trial beginning August 23, Cahill said.
The four men, who had asked to be tried separately, were all released on bail.
But the prosecution pushed for a single trial, arguing that multiple proceedings would mean unnecessary taxpayer spending and trauma for relatives.
According to court documents, the defendants say they used reasonable force, but cracks have appeared amongst their united front and some of the men seem ready to blame each other for the tragedy.
Floyd’s death — captured on bystander video — outraged Americans and many across the world, leading to millions taking to the streets to demand police reform.