George Floyd: At least one ex-officer intends to plead not guilty as judge sets tentative murder trial date

Alex Woodward

The four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the killing of George Floyd could face a jury trial in March, as a judge warned the men to avoid speaking publicly about the case during a hearing on Monday.

Three appeared at a Hennepin County court in Minnesota, while Derek Chauvin – who was captured on video kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck – attended the hearing via video conference from Ramsey County Correctional Centre, where he is being held on a $1.25m bail.

Judge Peter Cahill has set a tentative trial date for 8 March. The next hearing in the officers’s case is set for 11 September. But he warned them that making public remarks about the case, which is expected to draw significant media scrutiny in the coming weeks and months, could force the trial to move elsewhere, according to the Star Tribune.

Mr Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder as well as third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he was filmed kneeling against Mr Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as the 46-year-old called out “I can’t breathe” while on his stomach and with his hands cuffed behind him.

The other men – J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, none of whom stopped Mr Chauvin from performing the deadly manoeuvre – are charged with aiding and abetting Mr Floyd’s murder on 25 May.

Mr Kueng intends to plead not guilty, citing self-defence, reasonable force and authorised use of force, according to court filings.

It’s unclear whether all four men will be tried together or if there will be separate trials. It’s likely defence attorneys will file motions to do so.

All four men were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department following the killing, which galvanised protests against police violence that have persisted for more than a month across the US and around the world.

Two of the former officers – Mr Kueng and Mr Lane – are out on bail after each posted $750,000 bonds.

The former officers could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Meanwhile, city officials in Minneapolis are considering an amendment to the city’s charter to dissolve the city’s police department and establish a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention in the wake of Mr Floyd’s killing and widespread calls for reform.

The amendment would require a public vote on November ballots.

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