Two officers facing state trial in death of George Floyd seek a change in venue

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May 25 marked the two-year anniversary of Floyd’s death, reigniting worldwide news coverage of the killing

Two former Minneapolis police officers charged in connection with the killing of George Floyd are concerned that the publicity could make it impossible to select a “fair and impartial jury” for the upcoming state trial.

Attorneys for Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng appeared in court Tuesday morning to ask Judge Peter Cahill to delay and relocate their trial. Per Associated Press, Thao, Kueng, and former officer Thomas Lane were charged with depriving Floyd of his right to medical care when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying face down on the street on May 25, 2020.

The four former Minneapolis Police officers charged over the death of George Floyd are pictured: (from left) Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)
The four former Minneapolis Police officers charged over the death of George Floyd are pictured: (from left) Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)

Thao, Kueng, and Lane are all charged with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and murder in connection to Floyd’s death. Their trial is set to begin in downtown Minneapolis in two weeks, Star Tribune reports.

Earlier this month, Lane accepted a plea deal and agreed to a three-year sentence. Chauvin was convicted of murder last year in state court and pleaded guilty in December in the federal case.

May 25 marked the two-year anniversary of Floyd’s death, reigniting worldwide news coverage of the killing. Thao’s attorney Robert Paule noted in recently filed documents in Hennepin County Court that “overwhelming pretrial publicity” would “violate Mr. Thao’s state and federal constitutional rights to a jury trial with a fair and impartial jury.”

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin poses for a booking photo after being found guilty on all three charges in the murder of George Floyd. (Photo by Minnesota Department of Corrections via Getty Images)
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin poses for a booking photo after being found guilty on all three charges in the murder of George Floyd. (Photo by Minnesota Department of Corrections via Getty Images)

The defense team says a “litany of ongoing developments” related to the case “could taint the jury pool,” citing the settling of civil rights lawsuits and public comments from media influencers and politicians like Attorney General Keith Ellison, according to the report. The attorneys would like a venue change out of Hennepin County.

Thomas Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney, wants to move the trial to Olmsted or Dakota County. The prosecutor asked the judge to reject the request.

“Very little has really changed since your Honor denied previous motions,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank.

“We have faith in the ability of jurors to take their job seriously and do it fairly,” Frank said.

Back in February, Lane, Thao, and Kueng were convicted of violating Floyd’s civil rights in a federal trial. If a change of venue is denied, the attorneys would like the state trial delayed one year to allow for the publicity to fade.

If the motions for a venue change or continuance are denied, jury selection will begin on June 14, with opening statements slated for July 5. The trial is expected to last into early August.

Kueng, Lane, and Thao have not yet faced sentencing following their conviction in federal court in February for violating Floyd’s civil rights and causing his death. According to the report, the sentencing will likely take place after the state’s trial is wrapped.

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