Trial for ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd death pushed back to January 2023

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

A judge on Monday pushed back the trial for the two remaining former Minneapolis police officers charged in connection to George Floyd’s death to January 2023, but still refused to change its venue. 

Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng had been due to go on trial next Monday on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of Floyd. 

But Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Monday ordered that trial be delayed until Jan. 5, 2023, to improve prospects for a fair trial. 

Though denying a defense motion for a change of venue due to the extensive pretrial publicity surrounding the case, the judge said media reports and recent events surrounding connected cases have created “a reasonable likelihood of an unfair trial” if it were to begin next week. 

JUDGE ACCEPTS DEREK CHAUVIN PLEA DEAL IN GEORGE FLOYD FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS CASE 

Tou Thao, left, and J. Alexander Kueng, right, are the remaining former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's death

Tou Thao, left, and J. Alexander Kueng, right, are the remaining former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death ((Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File))

Cahill cited the May 18 guilty plea by Thao and Keung’s co-defendant, former Officer Thomas Lane, as well as the convictions of Thao, Kueng and Lane on federal civil rights charges in a separate trial in federal court in February.

The judge said those two events and the publicity surrounding them are significant enough to make it difficult for jurors to presume that Thao and Kueng are innocent of the state charges against them. So, he ordered the delay, just shy of seven months, to diminish the effects of that publicity.

Cahill also presided over last year’s trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin, which ended in a conviction for second-degree murder and a 22 1/2-year sentence for the White officer seen in catalyzing video kneeling on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes despite Floyd’s fading pleas of “I can’t breathe.”

The judge denied a motion by a coalition of media organizations to reconsider his decision in April to prohibit live audiovisual coverage of the proceedings from gavel to gavel. But he said he may reconsider if the Minnesota state court system revises its rules on cameras in the courts by Jan. 4.

A new George Perry Floyd Square sign is unveiled in front of hundreds of community members Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Minneapolis. The intersection where Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was renamed in his honor Wednesday, among a series of events to remember a man whose killing forced America to confront racial injustice. 

A new George Perry Floyd Square sign is unveiled in front of hundreds of community members Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Minneapolis. The intersection where Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was renamed in his honor Wednesday, among a series of events to remember a man whose killing forced America to confront racial injustice.  ((Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP))

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the case, said in a statement: “It’s unfortunate for the victims, the witnesses, and community that the opportunity to seek justice has been delayed. The State was ready for trial next week and will be ready next January.”

The revised schedule that Cahill laid out calls for hearing pretrial motions Jan 5-6, with jury selection beginning Jan. 9. Questionnaires will be mailed to a new pool of “several hundred” potential jurors around Sept. 1. Opening statements are set for Jan. 30.

In denying a change of venue, Cahill wrote that he is satisfied that a fair and impartial trial can be held in Hennepin County “eventually,” noting that it’s the most populous and diverse county in the state. He said attorneys will get to select jurors from a panel “that will surely exceed 200” after the lengthy questionnaires designed to screen out bias are returned.

Chauvin has been in prison since his conviction on the state murder charge, while Thao, Keung and Lane remain free on bail pending their federal sentencings.

Cahill’s order said he won’t entertain any potential plea agreements from Thao or Kueng until 15 days after their federal sentencings. They rejected plea deals from prosecutors earlier.

Minnesota court rules normally bar audio and video coverage of a criminal trial unless all parties consent and the defense in this case has objected. Cahill made an exception for Chauvin’s trial to ensure safe public and media access amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it drew worldwide viewership. But he ruled in April that the pandemic had abated to the point that he’s bound by normal court rules.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

A special advisory committee that’s been studying those rules is due to deliver a nonbinding report next month to the Minnesota Supreme Court. There’s no deadline for a final decision, but the delay in the trial revives the possibility that the proceedings for Thao and Kueng could be livestreamed.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson has not set dates for sentencing Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane on their federal civil rights convictions. Defense attorneys said during a hearing before Cahill last week that they were expecting the sentencings sometime in September. Chauvin pleaded guilty to a civil rights charge in December, while the other three went to trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.