George Floyd’s relatives are “understandably disappointed” after a judge ruled that only one family member would be allowed into the courtroom during the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with the death of Floyd, lawyers for the family said on Tuesday.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill issued an order on Monday detailing the number of spectators allowed into the courtroom during Derek Chauvin’s trial, including a member of the Floyd family and a member of the Chauvin family. According to the order, different family members can take turns in this position throughout the trial if they have the appropriate credentials.
Lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a declaration that the family eagerly awaits the trial as “a critical milestone on the road to justice and a step towards closing this dark chapter in their lives.”
“This year has been deeply painful and moving for every member of the Floyd family, many of whom intended to be in the courtroom to attend this trial,” the statement said. “While they understand the judge’s reasons for limiting attendance in the courtroom, the family are understandably disappointed with this decision.”
Floyd, a handcuffed black man, was killed on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. The four officers involved were dismissed.
Jury selection is set to begin March 8 in Chauvin’s trial for second degree murder and manslaughter. The other three former officers – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – are accused of aiding and abetting second degree murder and manslaughter. They are due to be tried in August.
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But it’s still unclear exactly what charges Chauvin might face. An appeals court is considering prosecutors’ request to reinstate a third degree murder charge against Chauvin. According to Minnesota law, third degree murder involves “the commission of an act eminently dangerous to others and the manifestation of a depraved spirit.”
Chauvin was charged in May with multiple counts, including third degree murder, but Cahill dismissed the count in October, ruling that state law only applies when an accused put several people at risk and someone dies, not when the focus is only on one person.
Prosecutors made the request in the Chauvin case after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last month in a separate case to uphold the third degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor for the shooting. death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017. The court ruled in Noor’s case that a conviction for third degree murder can stand even if the action that caused the death was directed against a person.
The three-judge panel that heard oral argument Monday in the Chauvin case said it would issue a fast-track decision as soon as possible given the upcoming trial. Chauvin has the option of appealing the decision of the Court of Appeal to the state Supreme Court and delaying the start of the trial.
Meanwhile, hours after the appeals court hearing on Monday, the Minnesota Supreme Court said it would reconsider the third degree murder conviction in the Noor case, starting in June. A Supreme Court ruling that Noor should not have been convicted of third degree murder would complicate any reinstatement of those charges against Chauvin, as it builds on the Noor precedent.
As the start of the Chauvin trial looms next week, city officials are making plans to prevent unrest like the protests that rocked Minneapolis after Floyd’s death in May and spilled over into cities across the country. National Guard troops and hundreds of law enforcement officers are expected to converge on the city, the courthouse has been surrounded by barbed wire and concrete barriers, and the streets are closed before the trial.
Cahill’s order regarding the Floyd family’s sole seat in the lawsuit came the same day authorities rolled back a plan to hire social media influencers to share city-approved posts and dispel misinformation online during the trial.
The city has faced backlash and teasing online about the plan to pay six influencers $ 2,000 to share the news. The idea was part of a $ 1.2 million community engagement and communications plan for the Chauvin trial that city council members approved on Friday.
Contribute: The Associated Press