Law & the Courts

Attorneys for Ex-Cops Charged in Floyd Death Ask Court to Sanction Prosecutors

Defense attorney Eric Nelson reads an argument with Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill on the eleventh day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (center) for second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., April 12, 2021 in this courtroom sketch. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

Attorneys for three former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death asked the court Thursday to sanction prosecutors after media reports indicated Derek Chauvin had intended to plead guilty a year ago, and one alleged that they hadn’t disclosed information about potential witness coercion.

The lawyers for Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao requested that the court require the prosecutors to submit affidavits under oath that they did not disclose the information about Chauvin’s predetermined plea to the media. Chauvin ended up not entering the plea.

In a filing late Wednesday, Thao’s attorney also alleged that Hennepin County medical examiner Andrew Baker was coerced to include “neck compression” in his scientific conclusions, and that the prosecutors had knowledge of it.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison refuted the claim that his office was responsible for the press leak.

Video footage of Floyd’s arrest shows the three cops’ co-defendant, Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck shortly before he died. A jury found Chauvin guilty in April of all counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter.

The ex-officer’s sentencing has been scheduled for June 25.

The other officers, Lane, Kueng, and Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Thao’s attorney, Bob Paule, said in a court filing Wednesday that Baker concluded there was no physical evidence proving Floyd died of asphyxiation, or suffocation, by being deprived of oxygen.

But after Baker consulted with Dr. Roger Mitchell, a former medical examiner in Washington, D.C., he revised his findings to include neck compression as a possible factor contributing to Floyd’s death, according to Paule.

During the pretrial motions Thursday, the judge postponed the trial for Lane, Kueng, and Thao, originally scheduled for August 23, to March 2022. He said he wanted to put some space between the three officers’ trial and Chauvin’s due to the politically contentious and racially charged nature of the case.

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