Officer who pressed knee into George Floyd’s neck to stand trial alone in March.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — the man who can be seen on video pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck for an excruciating 8 minutes and 46 seconds — will now stand trial alone, rather than going on trial with the three other former officers involved in the heinous act, Amy Forliti of the Associated Press has reported.
In an order filed Tuesday, Jan. 12, Judge Peter Cahill said he would be separating the murder case into two different trials rather than one, as he had been previously planned, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Specifically, Cahill said he believed that with the current size of his courtroom, it would be impossible for individuals to stay socially distanced based on the number of lawyers and support personnel expected to be present for the trial.
According to Forliti, “Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Former officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.”
While defense attorneys representing Lane, Thao, and Kueng support the announcement, with some saying it will give their teams a preview of what they’ll likely face when they go on trial later in the summer, others are unhappy.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the case, complained about the decision, saying: “The evidence against each defendant is similar and multiple trials may retraumatize eyewitnesses and family members and unnecessarily burden the State and the Court while also running the risk of prejudicing subsequent jury pools.”
Attorneys for Chauvin had no comment, but Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, believes the case against Chauvin will be stronger with two trials.
“In a joint trial, there’s always a spillover effect no matter what,” Gray said. “You know a jury is supposed to consider each client separately, but that’s hard for anyone to do — common sense tells you that.”
Mike Brandt, a criminal defense lawyer who is not connected to the case, agreed the news is worse for Chauvin, telling AP that separate trials would allow the other officers to blame Chauvin for what happened, reducing their culpability. Brandt also said he thought it was unlikely the officers would testify against one another over Fifth Amendment concerns of self-incrimination.
Following Chauvin’s trial in March, the trial for Thao, Kueng and Lane is currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 23.
Judge halts federal execution of Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on Death Row.
Just hours before federal death row inmate Lisa Montgomery was scheduled to die, NBC News has reported a federal judge granted her a stay of execution to conduct a mental competency review. Montgomery was one of the five inmates condemned to death by President Trump during his lame duck period before President-elect Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
In 2007, Montgomery was found guilty of murdering a 23-year-old pregnant woman and stealing her unborn baby. Montgomery took the baby home and pretended it was her own. Fortunately, Montgomery was eventually apprehended and the child, who was lucky to survive being cut out of its mother, was safely recovered.
Advocates for Montgomery — including her sister — say Montgomery’s heinous crime was the result of dissociation and psychosis stemming from rampant physical and sexual abuse that she suffered as a child and young adult. Her legal team argues this trauma should exclude her from being sentenced to death.
Authorities have yet to give a date for a mental competency hearing, and prosecutors have filed a notice to appeal the decision. President-elect Biden, who will take office in eight days, has said he would put a moratorium on the federal death penalty, potentially saving Montgomery’s life. Her life prison sentence, however, would not be rescinded.
D.I. Fast Facts
Number of lawmakers (Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Rep. Brad Schneider of Colorado) so far who have tested positive for COVID-19 following the assault on the Capitol by pro-MAGA insurrectionists. Many Senators and Representatives were forced to gather in underground bunkers with Republicans who refused to wear protective masks.
— NBC News