Former Officers Charged in George Floyd’s Death to be Tried Separately
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer whose handling of George Floyd’s arrest sparked international outcry, will be tried separately from the three other officers who were arrested in connection with the incident, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge Peter Cahill, fearing that the trial could amount to a “super spreader” event for coronavirus transmission, said that the measurements of even the largest courtroom at the Hennepin County Government Center “make it impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants … given the number of lawyers and support personnel the parties have now advised the Court are expected to be present during the trial.”
The announcement came one week after prosecutors in the trial sought a delay from March 8 to June 7, citing the possible transmission of COVID-19 as a key concern.
“[A delay] 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,” read the request.
Cahill opted instead to divide the defendants into separate trials, noting that the court is “not so optimistic” that the pandemic will have subsided by June, “given news reports detailing problems with the vaccine rollout.”
Floyd’s death at the hands of Chauvin and three other officers led to protests and widespread civil unrest. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was apprehended on May 25 after allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill. Chauvin, a white officer, pinned him to the ground, placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
The protests themselves might have caused a widespread transmission of the virus, which continues to spike throughout the country. The state of Minnesota has had 437,552 cases of COVID-19 to date, with nearly 6,000 statewide deaths attributed to the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.