Trial for former Minneapolis officers delayed to 2023

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One week after two former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death requested their trial to be delayed and for a new location, their request has been partially granted.

RELATED: 2 ex-MPD officers ask for trial in George Floyd death to be moved, delayed

Court documents state the trial for two former Minneapolis police officers has been moved to January 2023.

Former officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are now scheduled to stand trial in early January, with jury selection set to begin Monday, Jan. 9 at 9 a.m. and opening statements tentatively set for Monday, Jan. 30.

Questionnaires are expected to be sent out to a new panel of jurors around Sept. 1.

Meanwhile, the request to change the venue was denied.

“I think Judge (Peter) Cahill was really transparent about that he did analysis and determined the press coverage has been extensive wherever you go, not just in the state but outside of the state,” University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “He looked at newspapers in Duluth and Fargo and places like that and found that there’s really no place that you can ship this trial to where people are going to have not seen the video, for example.”

A motion filed last month by Thao and Kueng asked Cahill to delay their state trial until after they and former officer Thomas Lane—who already pleaded guilty in the state case—face sentencing on their federal convictions.

“The stated reason for putting it off was to account for some of this media coverage specifically on two events. First, Officer Lane pleading guilty and, second, the conviction in federal court of the other three officers,” Osler said. “This gives them time to get a plea agreement together after the federal sentencing takes place.”

Thao, Kueng and Lane were convicted in federal court earlier this year of violating Floyd’s civil rights. However, their sentencing dates haven’t yet been set.

“When Lane pleaded guilty, he was only convicted of one charge in federal court where these [other] officers were convicted of two charges,” said Michael Bryant, managing partner of Bradshaw and Bryant. He is not affiliated with this case. “As a result, they have some extra things that are being looked at in their sentence that you didn’t have in Lane’s case.”

Bryant expects the defense attorneys will consider prison placement and the length of prison time as two major factors in any agreement with prosecutors.

“It’ll be some amount of time equal to or lesser than what’s in federal court and then they’ll wrap it together and then go with federal court,” he said.

Bryant believes it’s unlikely the state trial will take place.

“I would think the odds are very, very low,” Bryant said. “They’ll still keep talking about trial because that gives them negotiating power, and if they have to try [the case] they’ll try it. They’ve got trial lawyers very willing to try cases, but in the end, it’s probably going to depend a lot on what the federal sentencing is for the two officers that are left.”

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Thao and Kueng’s state trial was set to begin on June 13. They’re each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

As for the trial being delayed just a week before it was set to begin, Osler said it’s not that shocking.

“There’s a lot we don’t see that goes on behind the surface and part of that may have been plea negotiations,” Osler said. “I think there’s a certain amount of uncertainty about what the federal sentences will be and so maybe they played chicken a little bit up until that date but I think, for all parties here, they’d rather avoid a trial if there’s a plea that can be negotiated.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison released the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“It’s unfortunate for the victims, the witnesses, and community that the opportunity to seek justice has been delayed. The State was ready for trial next week and will be ready next January.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

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