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Judge Sets Joint Trial for Four Ex-Officers in Floyd Death

Four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd will be tried together, a judge ruled Thursday. He rejected the former officers’ requests to move the case outside of the Minneapolis area, NPR reports. Defense attorneys for Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng argued that pretrial publicity has made it impossible to have a fair trial in Minneapolis. They said it was unsafe for the participants, as evidenced by a protest ahead of a Sept. 11 hearing. They also noted a jury may face threats, potentially affecting their ability to decide the case. Chauvin, who was captured on cellphone video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, faces a second-degree murder charge. Lane, Thao, and Kueng face charges of aiding and abetting.

Defense attorneys maintained each man should stand trial individually. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill wasn’t convinced of those arguments. “The sustained levels of media attention show no sign of abating, and there certainly will be a swell of media coverage surrounding the proceedings and verdict in the first trial,” no matter if that trial involves one or all of the defendants, Cahill said. If there were four separate trials, finding a “fair and impartial” group for each case would be far more difficult after the first trial concludes, he said. “Because of this, joinder is a critical safeguard to help protect the fairness of a jury trial, which strongly supports a single trial, rather than four separate trials with four separate juries,” he said. Cahill will allow video cameras and livestreaming into the courtroom during the trial, which is scheduled for March 8. Editor’s Note: “Joinder” is a legal term denoting an agreement joining a person as party to another agreement as if such person was an original party to such agreement.