Three co-defendants on state witness list in trial of ex-officer charged with killing Floyd
Published 12:42 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021
By Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio News
Prosecutors preparing for the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin say they may call his three co-defendants as government witnesses.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 killing of George Floyd.
In a court filing Monday, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank named more than 360 people he is considering calling to the stand. On his list are former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao, and Thomas Lane, who stand accused of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Chauvin’s trial is scheduled to begin with a motion hearing on March 8 in Minneapolis. A separate trial for the other three former officers is set to start Aug. 23.
The government’s witness list also includes Darnella Frazier, the young woman who recorded video of Floyd’s killing outside Cup Foods, and Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother. Prosecutors also named Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Fire Chief Bryan Tyner, and Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker as potential witnesses.
Earlier on Monday, defense attorney Eric Nelson filed with the court his own list of potential witnesses. It also includes Frazier, Arradondo, Tyner, Baker, and dozens of other law enforcement officials and expert witnesses.
In a separate filing Monday, Nelson outlined his arguments opposing a move by prosecutors to reinstate third-degree murder charges against Chauvin. In October, Judge Peter Cahill dismissed that charge while keeping the other counts.
Frank argued in a filing last week that third-degree murder should apply in this case following a recent Minnesota Court of Appeals decision regarding Mohamed Noor, another former Minneapolis police officer.
Frank said that the appellate decision upholding Noor’s third-degree murder conviction in the 2017 killing of Justine Ruszczyk makes clear that third-degree murder charges may apply if the defendant’s actions are directed at a specific person. Prosecutors often use that charge in the cases of alleged drug dealers whom they deem culpable of overdose deaths.
Nelson countered that the Noor decision does not set a precedent because there is still time for the Minnesota Supreme Court to review it. He argued that prior case law still applies, and there’s no probable cause to charge Chauvin with third-degree murder.
Prosecutors also hope to add third-degree murder charges to the complaints against Kueng, Thao and Lane, and try all four men together at a later date.