Prosecutors pursuing the case against four Minneapolis police officers in the death of a Black man in their custody have asked the judge to delay the trial three months until June, so that a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is more widely available.
Special prosecutors in the case, appointed by Minneapolis state Attorney General Keith Ellison, filed a motion before Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill claiming that delaying the trial from March 8 to June 7 ”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.”
Attorney Eric Nelson, lawyer for the officer charged with the most serious offense, Derek Chauvin, in December asked for a delay over what he called mishandling of evidence by prosecutors — such as burying important information amid irrelevant material, duplicate copies and inclusion of thousands of pages of unrelated documents, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The attorney for another officer, Alexander Keung, questioned the prosecution’s request for a delay.
“The timing of their motion seems curious to me,” Thomas Plunkett said. “The pandemic has been around for a while.”
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd on May 25, while Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are accused of aiding and abetting.
Floyd died in police custody after being arrested for using a counterfeit $20 bill and being restrained on the street near a patrol car by Chauvin with his knee on or above the suspect’s neck.
Video of the arrest sparked protests and riots across the country by those who claimed Floyd died of strangulation and exemplified ”systemic racism” and ”police brutality.”
However, the medical examiner’s report said Floyd died of a heart attack and charging documents said the coroner found ”no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”
Additionally, a memo from a meeting between Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner, and local prosecutors disclosed that the coroner disclosed that the level of fentanyl in Floyd’s system was so high that ”if Mr. Floyd had been found dead in his home (or anywhere else) and there were no other contributing factors he would conclude that it was an overdose death.”
Because that virtual meeting between Baker and prosecutors was held without witnesses, Cahill dismissed them from the case for being ”sloppy.”