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Minneapolis, MN – The judge overseeing the trials of the former Minneapolis police officers charged with the death of George Floyd in custody on Monday ruled that information about Floyd’s earlier arrests could not be used at trial.
Article by Sandy Malone originally published at The Police Tribune.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill also said in the order that was released to the public on Tuesday that he would allow two prior incidents involving former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s use of neck or head and upper body restraints into evidence, CBS News reported. Prosecutors had wanted to tell jurors about seven incidents when Chauvin had used those methods to restrain suspects during his career.
But Cahill ruled they were only allowed to tell jurors about two specific incidents, one of which was an arrest in June of 2017 when Chauvin restrained a female suspect by putting his knee on her neck while she was face down on the ground, CBS News reported.
Cahill said that prosecutors could also tell the jury about an incident in August of 2015 when Chauvin allegedly saw other officers place a suspect in the proper position after Tasing him, but said they could only introduce it into evidence after they proved Chauvin was present when medical professionals commended that move.
Defense attorneys had asked for permission to tell the jury about some of the arrests in Floyd’s extensive criminal history, especially one a year prior to his death in May of 2019 when he swallowed narcotics in his possession and then cried for his mother during the arrest. They told the judge they wanted to show that Floyd had behaved similarly to the way he acted when he was detained on May 25, 2020 and died was he was being arrested, CBS News.
Court documents showed that one of the defense attorneys referred to Floyd as an ex-convict, a violent offender, and a liar. The judge did not explain either of his rulings but said he would address the matters at a later date, CBS News reported.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd as he was being arrested by the four officers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng are facing charges for aiding and abetting Chauvin in Floyd’s death. The officers had responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that Floyd had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli on May 25. 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.
On Jan. 12, Cahill reversed an earlier decision and ruled that the officers would have separate trials. He announced that Chauvin would stand trial by himself on March 8, and the other three former police officers would be tried together on Aug. 23, The Washington Post reported.
Cahill cited an email he had received from the chief judge in Hennepin County that brought some new concerns to his attention. Hennepin County District Court Judge Toddrick Barnette told Cahill in the email that he had met with prosecutors and defense attorneys to review security logistics for the trial.
Barnette said he hadn’t been aware of how many attorneys and support staff would be present at trial and told Cahill that the designated courtroom was “not an adequate venue when enforcing social distancing,” according to The Washington Post. The chief judge suggested that fewer defendants per trial would mean fewer legal advisors in the courtroom so that social distancing could be observed.
“I am not asking that you delay the trials,” he wrote. “I’m only asking that you consider having less than all four defendants stand trial.”
Based on the advice of the chief judge, Cahill decided that Chauvin would stand trial alone on March 8, The Washington Post reported.
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