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National News

Judge in George Floyd case hears motions citing protest amidst coronavirus could trigger “super spreader event”

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Judge in George Floyd case hears motions citing protest amidst coronavirus could trigger “super spreader event”

2021-01-08 04:50:14

By Dwaipayan

Floyd died May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned facedown on a South Minneapolis street as police investigated a 911 call about a counterfeit $20 bill that allegedly had been passed at a convenience store.

Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old Black man repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and ultimately lost consciousness. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis force, was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, while the other officers at the scene — Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane — were charged with aiding and abetting murder. All four were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department.

The judge overseeing the criminal case for George Floyd's killing heard arguments Thursday from prosecutors and defense attorneys, who have asked to postpone the March trial until summer.

Prosecutors last week filed a motion to delay the trial, set to begin March 8, to June, citing concerns the proceedings and the expected protests outside the courthouse could create a “superspreader event” during the ongoing risks of the coronavirus.

“The prosecution is 100 percent ready to try this case in March, 100 percent,” said Neal Katyal, an outside special attorney who is helping prosecute the case. “We reluctantly concluded that a June trial date will be substantially safer for the public health.”

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill acknowledged the health risks but seemed skeptical, citing an already packed court calendar. In a hearing held over Zoom, Cahill pressed prosecutors on why the logistics of the Floyd case were different from any other pending case before the court, which is conducting business virtually because of a coronavirus shutdown.

“I know I am going to be trying a case, come March 8, one way or the other,” Cahill said. Cahill did not say when he would make a decision.

But Robert Paule, an attorney for former officer Tou Thao, one of four slated to stand trial in the case, questioned the motives of prosecutors — suggesting their efforts to delay were linked to their opposition to the judge’s decision to allow audio and visual coverage of the proceedings due to the pandemic.

The hearing came as court records revealed investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is conducting its own investigation into Floyd’s death, conducted another search last month of the vehicle Floyd was sitting in when officers first confronted him.

Attorneys for the former officers have argued that Floyd did not die as a result of being restrained by police but from a combination of poor health and an overdose of fentanyl — pointing to comments made by Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker, who conducted Floyd’s autopsy.

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