The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday dismissed the prosecution’s request to delay the March trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minnesota police officer charged will killing George Floyd, after the prosecution cited safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The appeals court also rejected the prosecution’s request to hold a joint trial for Chauvin and three other former police officers involved in the fatal arrest.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. He kneeled on George Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020, for over eight minutes during an arrest. Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting because of their involvement in the fatal arrest. Jury selection for Chauvin’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 8. The trial is scheduled to begin on March 29. The trial for Thao, Lane, and Kueng is scheduled to begin on August 23.
Regarding the trial delay, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank argued that holding Chauvin’s trial in March would result in public health risks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The risks reach jurors, attorneys, and others present in the courtroom.
The prosecution also argued for a joint trial for Chauvin, Thao, Lane, and Kueng. The state asserted that the evidence against the four defendants is similar, and multiple trials would traumatize witnesses and the community. If a joint trial were held over the summer, the COVID-19 risks would likely be lessened.
Judge Tracy Smith led a three-judge panel that dismissed the requests. To justify pretrial review in Minnesota, a “critical impact” standard must be met. The prosecution failed to show that holding the trial in March would have a “critical impact” on the ability to successfully prosecute the case. Judge Smith explained that prosecution’s arguments related “not to the state’s ability to prosecution but rather to public-health risks.”