Chauvin is charged with unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter
Attorneys for fired Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin have asked a judge to block prosecutors from introducing prior use-of-force incidents at trial, including an incident in which he knelt on a 14-year-old boy’s back.
Chauvin is charged with unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes.
In a motion filed on Monday, prosecutors said that bodycam footage of prior arrests showed that ‘when faced with a suspect who does not immediately comply with his demands, Chauvin intentionally uses a level of unreasonable force to accomplish subdual and restraint,’ according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Chauvin’s defense attorney responded by arguing that the force used in incidents cited was in keeping with department’s then-policy on dealing with uncooperative suspects, saying it was irrelevant for the trial.
George Floyd, a black man, died after Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill has yet to rule on the motions. Last week, Cahill ruled that Chauvin and three other fired officers who were present will stand trial together, rather than separately.
In their earlier filings, prosecutors sought to introduce evidence from seven prior incidents involving Chauvin to show a pattern of excessive force to restrain suspects.
Footage from one incident in question shows Chauvin and another officer responding to a domestic assault September 4, 2017 in which a mother said she was assaulted by her son and daughter, who were both minors.
On arriving, the officers found the son laying on the floor in the back of the house, on his phone, and ordered him to get up because he was under arrest. When he refused, Chauvin grabbed him, and without saying anything, struck the teen in the head with his flashlight and then grabbed him by the throat, before hitting him again with the flashlight — all of which occurred less than a minute after the officers first encountered the boy, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, the video then showed Chauvin applying a neck restraint to the boy, who briefly went unconscious, and then placing him in a prone position with a knee in his back for about 17 minutes until paramedics arrived.
Chauvin held the position even after the child told him that he was in pain and couldn’t breathe, and after the mother tried to intervene, prosecutors said.
George Floyd died on Memorial Day as he was arrested by four police officers over allegedly trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. He was seen in a video pleading that he couldn’t breathe as Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck
Chauvin will face trial alongside (left to right): J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao
‘As was true with the conduct with George Floyd, Chauvin rapidly escalated his use of force for a relatively minor offense,’ prosecutors said.
Last week, Judge Cahill ruled that Chauvin and his co-defendants will face trial in Hennepin County, rejecting a defense motion to have the trial moved elsewhere in the state.
But Cahill said he was not convinced that moving the trial would improve security, and that he believes the jury can be protected from outside influences.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled that Chauvin and his co-defendants will face trial in Hennepin County
‘No corner of the State of Minnesota has been shielded from pretrial publicity regarding the death of George Floyd. Because of that pervasive media coverage, a change of venue is unlikely to cure the taint of potential prejudicial pretrial publicity,’ he wrote.
Cahill said he was willing to revisit the issue if circumstances warrant. Moving the trial away from Minneapolis to a less diverse area also likely would affect the makeup of the jury, though the judge didn’t address that issue. In a separate order, however, he said the names of the jurors will be kept confidential, and that jurors will be fully sequestered during deliberations and escorted to the courthouse as a group.
The judge also ruled that the trial can be televised and streamed live, saying cameras will ensure the defendants’ right to a public trial and the public’s right to access during this time when spacing restrictions due to COVID-19 leave little to no room for spectators.
Defense attorneys also argued that the men should face separate trials, as each officer tried to diminish his own role in Floyd´s arrest by pointing fingers at the others. But Cahill rejected that too, saying the complications of separate trials were too great and that trying the officers together would ‘ensure that the jury understands … all of the evidence and the complete picture of Floyd’s death.
‘And it would allow this community, this State and the nation to absorb the verdicts for the four defendants at once,’ he concluded. Cahill said the critical evidence is the same for all men, and one trial would keep witnesses from having to testify multiple times.
Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race. All four officers were fired. They are scheduled to stand trial in March.
Chauvin is charged with unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other former officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting both counts.
Tom Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney, said in a statement that he is reviewing Cahill’s orders.
‘My goal is to assure that a fair trial occurs for Mr. Kueng. We are happy to have the orders so we can start preparing for our trial and presenting the truth in front of a jury,’ he said.
Defense attorneys for Chauvin and Lane had no comment on the judge’s rulings. Thao’s attorney did not return messages seeking comment.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the case, praised the rulings as ‘another significant step forward’ in the pursuit of justice for Floyd and the community.