Judge blocks George Floyd’s previous arrests from trial, yet permits past incidents involving defendant


MINNEAPOLIS, MN – A judge has issued an order that information about George Floyd’s prior criminal acts cannot be used in the upcoming trials of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in his death.  The judge also ruled that the prosecution could use prior incidents involving the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck.

Former Minneapolis officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng face charges in the death of Floyd. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Lane, Thao, and Kueng, who assisted in restraining Floyd, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill denied a defense motion to introduce evidence about Floyd’s prior arrests, including a May 2019 arrest which defense attorneys argued showed Floyd acting similar to the way he was acting on the day of his death.

During the 2019 incident, defense attorneys wrote:

“Mr. Floyd was engaged in the sale and possession of large quantities of controlled substances. When approached by police, he placed the drugs in his mouth in an attempt to avoid arrest, and swallowed them.

When interacting with police, he engaged in diversionary behavior such as crying and acting irrationally.”

Floyd was transported to a hospital after swallowing the pills.  The defense argued the evidence should be admissible because Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died.

The defense is arguing that Floyd died of a drug overdose and health issues, and not from the actions of the officers.

Judge Cahill also denied a motion to allow Floyd’s previous conviction for armed robbery. In the motion, Lane’s attorney described Floyd as an ex-convict, a violent defendant, and a liar. The comments drew criticism from Floyd’s family attorney, who said the defense was attempting character assassination.

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Prosecutors received a partial victory when the judge ruled that they could use two previous incidents involving Chauvin using neck or head and upper body restraints. Prosecutors had requested permission to use seven past incidents involving Chauvin, including four where they claimed prosecutors told Chauvin that he had gone too far.

Prosecutors claimed in the motion that Chauvin’s past incidents would show a “propensity, or a modus operandi, regarding the way in which he approached arrestees.”

The two incidents that will be permitted at trial include incidents where Chauvin was criticized for his use of physical restraint.

In 2015, Chauvin responded to a suicidal and intoxicated male. Officers used a stun gun on the male, and then placed him in a “side-recovery position.” Medical professionals later told the officers that the man could have died if they had restrained him longer or delayed transporting him to the hospital.

In 2017, Chauvin responded to an incident where he restrained a female prone on the ground with his knee on her neck. Prosecutors later wrote in a court filing that he went “beyond the point when such force was needed.”

The judge refused to permit prosecutors to use other incidents in Chauvin’s past, including an incident in 2019, when he used a neck restraint on an intoxicated male until he became unconscious.

Judge Cahill also ruled previous incidents involving the other defendants could not be introduced during the trial. The prosecution wanted to use a previous 2012 incident involving Thao. According to authorities, Thao sat in his police vehicle while other officers handled a call and attempted to manipulate a domestic violence victim to avoid filing having to file a report.

They also wanted to use a 2019 incident when Kueng pinned a person to the ground.

The months-long battle between the defense and prosecution continued when Chauvin’s attorney filed an affidavit alleging the prosecution “mishandled” how they shared evidence with the defense. Attorney Eric Nelson wrote:

“I spoke to Assistant Attorney General Matt Frank and expressed my absolute anger and frustration with the manner in which the State has conducted discovery and made its discovery in this matter.”

Each of the four defendant’s attorneys has claimed prosecutors have attempted to hide evidence by sandwiching key evidence between irrelevant materials, providing duplicates, and missing deadlines.

Nelson stated he obtained copies of evidence had had previously received from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He said the BCA provided the evidence in a “well organized, labeled and easily identifiable” manner. He said that when he received the same evidence from prosecutors, the evidence was contained in a single. Non-searchable, 6,032-page PDF file.

Prosecutors defended their actions by saying they are sharing evidence as soon as they received it.

In another development, prosecutors appealed the judge’s ruling that split the four officers’ trials and scheduled the first trial to begin in March. Judge Cahill ruled that Chauvin’s trial would begin March 8, and the other three officers would be tried on August 23.

Prosecutors want the four officers to be tried together to limit the trauma to victims and the community. The judge cited space limitations in the courtroom that would make social distancing due to the pandemic difficult.

George Floyd, a black man, died after being arrested by officers outside a shop in Minneapolis on Memorial Day 2020. Video of the incident captured officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he was pinned to the ground. Transcripts show Floyd said more than 20 times that he could not breathe while being restrained.

Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds. During that time, Floyd called out to his mother, and cried out, “please, please, please.” At one point he tells officers, “You’re gonna kill me, man,” while gasping for air.

Floyd became unresponsive about six minutes into the restraint, and bystanders started shouting at the officers to check his pulse. Officer Kueng checked and found Floyd had no pulse, yet officers continued restraining him for almost two minutes.

Floyd was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by EMS and pronounced dead an hour later.

His death sparked protests in Minneapolis the next day. The protests spread worldwide and included peaceful demonstrations and clashes with police. There was also rioting and looting in many cities, including New York, Portland, and Seattle.




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