The Minnesota judge overseeing the trial of the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd ruled Thursday that they would stand trail together and that the case would not be moved to a different county in the state.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill’s decisions come after a pretrial hearing in September when the attorneys for the officers argued they would get fairer trials separately and outside of the county, which encompasses all of Minneapolis.
Cahill also ruled that he would allow cameras in the courtroom to livestream proceedings and that jurors for the trial would be sequestered and kept anonymous.
And he reversed a ruling that he made in September prohibiting Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and a trio of his attorneys from working the case.
Freeman is the only attorney in state history to get a murder conviction against a police officer.
In his reasoning for a joint trial, Cahill said that the officers’ defenses are “mutually supportive.”
“[A]ll Defendants contend they were authorized in using force because Floyd was resisting their demands to take a seat in the squad car for transport to the Jail for booking and that the force they used was reasonable,” he wrote. "In addition, all Defendants contend that Floyd’s death resulted from his underlying medical conditions, heart disease, and hypertension acting in combination with several drugs found in his system post-mortem and was not caused by their actions in subduing and restraining him.”
Floyd, a Black man, was killed in May when former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. His death sparked ongoing nationwide protests decrying police brutality and systemic racism.
In bystander video of the incident, Floyd made repeated appeals to Chauvin, telling him that he could not breathe while the officer applied pressure to his neck. He then became unresponsive and was pronounced dead after he was taken to the hospital.
Floyd's death was ruled a homicide, and a Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office autopsy report revealed he died from "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression."
Chauvin is facing the most serious charges — second-degree murder and manslaughter — though Cahill last month dismissed a charge of third-degree murder.
The other former officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, all face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith EllisonKeith EllisonMinnesota AG ups charges against ex-police officer in shooting of Daunte Wright Trump campaign, RNC refund donors another .8 million in 2021: NYT Attorneys general looking into online fundraising practices MORE (D), one of the main prosecutors on the case, described Cahill’s decision as a “measured and thoughtful application of the law.”
"I'm satisfied by the court’s decisions today,” Ellison said in a statement. “The murder of George Floyd occurred in Minneapolis and it is right that the defendants should be tried in Minneapolis. It is also true that they acted in concert with each other and the evidence against them is similar, so it is right to try them in one trial.”
“[T]he rulings today represent another significant step forward in the pursuit of justice for George Floyd and for our community," he added.
The trial is slated to start March 8 in downtown Minneapolis.