Prosecutors want more time for federal trial in Floyd death

Derek Chauvin videoconference courtroom sketch
In a Zoom courtroom sketch, Derek Chauvin (upper right) appears in federal court via videoconference from Minnesota's maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights. Also present are Judge Becky Thorson (upper left), Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson (lower left) and federal prosecuting attorney Manda Sertich (lower right).
Cedric Hohnstadt

Prosecutors are asking a judge for more time to prepare for the federal trial of four former police officers facing civil rights charges in George Floyd's death, calling the case unusual and complex due in part to the sheer volume of evidence.

A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao last month, alleging they violated Floyd's rights while acting under government authority as Floyd was restrained face-down, handcuffed and not resisting. Chauvin is also charged in a separate indictment alleging he violated the rights of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court and is awaiting sentencing in that case. The other former officers also face state trial next March on aiding and abetting counts. That trial — initially scheduled for August — was pushed back partly so the federal case could happen first.

But in federal court, the Speedy Trial Act requires that trial begin within 70 days of charges being filed or an initial appearance, with some exceptions. A judge can extend the deadline if the case is found to be unusual or complex.

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In documents filed Tuesday and last month, federal prosecutors said the case is complex because of the separate but coordinated state and federal investigations. Many of the witnesses in Chauvin's weekslong murder trial overlap, and more evidence is expected to come out during the state trial of the other officers.

Prosecutors also said the case includes voluminous video and audio recordings and documents — totaling hundreds of gigabytes of data and tens of thousands of pages. Prosecutors said they received responses to more than 40 grand jury subpoenas for records, constituting thousands of documents and other media items.

Defense attorneys have not objected to a delay. A federal trial date has not been set.

Floyd, 46, repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe as Chauvin pinned him to the ground on May 25, 2020. Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd — Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held Floyd’s legs. Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint that was captured on bystander video and led to worldwide protests and calls for change in policing.

The federal indictment alleges Chauvin violated Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and from unreasonable force by a police officer. Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care.