The four fired MPD officers charged in the death of George Floyd appeared in court Monday. Derek Chauvin, charged with Floyd’s murder, appeared via video while the remaining officers J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao appeared in person.
Chauvin was the officer seen in videos shot by onlookers pinning Floyd against the pavement with his knee on his neck for more than seven minutes until he became unresponsive. He is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
The other officers were seen in videos either holding down Floyd’s torso and lower body as Chauvin kept his knee on his neck or standing guard while Floyd repeatedly complained of not being able to breathe. The three are now charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Kueng plans to plead not guilty on claims of self-defense, use of reasonable force, and authorized use of force, according to court documents. Like Lane, Kueng was a newer cop on his third shift the day of Floyd’s fatal arrest.
Lane had been a police officer for four days, while Thao had been on the job for eight years. Chauvin was a 19-year veteran of the force who reportedly had 18 complaints filed against him over the years,
The video of Floyd’s killing has ignited a global protest movement against police brutality and spawned renewed calls for police reform and divestment.
The massive amount of media attention over the case and public comments from officials led Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, to raise concerns in court that his client wouldn’t be able to obtain a fair trial. He took to task President Trump and Minnesota elected officials for their public statements about the ongoing criminal investigation.
While stopping short of a gag order, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill threatened to grant a change-of-venue motion if officials continue to issue public comments about the case. “The court is not going to be happy about hearing about the case in three areas: media, evidence, and guilt or innocence,” Cahill warned, according to the AP.
The next court date for the former officers is set for September 11 with a tentative trial date set for March 8, 2021. Experts said it’s likely that the officers will have separate trials.