The former officer who held his knee to George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he yelled out that he couldn’t breathe will be tried alone. Derek Chauvin will be tried separately from former cops Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane.
According to an order filed on Tuesday (Jan. 12), Judge Peter Cahill explained that his decision to split the trials was based on the limited space in the courtrooms which made it “impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions.” He sought the separation to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines.
Prosecutors have also been wary of the health risks associated with the Coronavirus. Last week, they requested to push the trial back three months so that “the need to protect public health with the need to ensure that this case is resolved expeditiously” would be balanced.
The delay, they additionally noted, “would substantially reduce the risks to trial participants from COVID-19, and thereby reduce the risk that this trial is delayed or disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak among the trial participants.”
Back in May, Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee as Tao, Lane and Kueng failed to stop him. Floyd fell unconscious and later died after his complaints of being unable to breathe were ignored.
Defense attorneys in the case initially pushed for separate trials, but prosecutors argued against it as there were similar charges and accompanying evidence against all four officers. Now, following Cahill’s ruling, Chauvin — who faces charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — is slated to appear in court on March, the month of the officers’ original court date. Tao, Lane and Kueng — who are currently charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter — will be tried together in the summer.