The Hennepin County Judge handling the case of the four former officers who have been charged with killing George Floyd is concerned they won’t get a fair trial.
According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill warned attorneys Monday that comments from public officials may force him to move the trial outside Hennepin County.
At the hearing, defense attorneys for former officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao criticized state, city, and county officials for giving opinions they believe have tainted their client’s right to a fair trial.
“I’m fighting the battle with one hand,” because of the public statements, said Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, adding that he planned to file a motion for a change of venue.
Cahill agreed that public commentary on the incident is widespread.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest” that no public statements about the case be made, Cahill said at the hearing. “What they’re doing is endangering the right to a fair trial. They need to understand that.”
Moving a trial outside of the county in which the crime allegedly occurred in is rare. However, the issue dominated the hearing Monday. The hearing also touched on future court dates, the amount of evidence in the case, and whether cameras should be allowed at the trial.
Media members from across the country and globe have flocked to Hennepin County for the preliminary proceedings. Members of Floyd’s family have also attended the hearing. Floyd’s aunt Angela Harrelson and uncle Selwyn Jones also attended the hearings and believe the trial should stay in Hennepin County.
“What’s the purpose of moving it?” she asked. “Honestly, I mean the whole world knows about it, and I’m like, well, where are you going to go? … You can move to Africa; they knew about it. … All that’s going to do is make it inconvenient for the family to get there.”
Chauvin, who is still being held on a $1.25 million bond appeared via remote TV from the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Oak Park Heights. Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The other three officers Keung, Lane, and Thao have been charged with and abetting murder and manslaughter and have posted bond.
The trial is scheduled for March 8, 2021.
The death of George Floyd has sparked nationwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter and calls to defund police departments. In a recent poll by the AP and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 95% of Americans said they’re in favor of at least some criminal justice system and police reform.