MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota prosecutors and a defense attorney for one of two former Minneapolis police officers who still face a state trial in George Floyd’s killing have made dueling requests for a new trial date, with the state hoping to have a trial as soon as this summer, while a defense lawyer wants to push it to next spring.
Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 killing of Floyd. Their trial was supposed to start earlier this month, but Judge Peter Cahill postponed it until Jan. 5, saying that would improve prospects for a fair trial.
But on Friday, state prosecutors requested a speedy trial on behalf of Floyd’s family. Under Minnesota law, that means the trial could start in mid-August. Kueng’s defense attorney, Tom Plunkett, followed with a document filed Sunday that seeks a longer delay – until April – because he has a scheduling conflict.
Cahill will hold a hearing on the issue Tuesday.
Thao and Kueng were already convicted of federal counts of violating Floyd’s rights. Their former colleague, Thomas Lane, was also convicted on a federal count and pleaded guilty in May to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All three are free pending their federal sentencing hearings, which have not been set.
Other than citing a statute that calls for a speedy trial, state prosecutors gave no additional reason for their request. But Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison previously said that it was unfortunate “for the victims, the witnesses, and community that the opportunity to seek justice has been delayed.”
Plunkett said in his filing, which was made public Monday, that he discussed his request for an additional delay in a teleconference, but the state said it couldn’t agree to it. Plunkett wrote that Thao’s attorney, Bob Paule, did not object to another postponement.
Plunkett also wrote that there were two in-chambers conferences – on March 9 and on May 27 – in which plea negotiations, trial scheduling, and other matters were discussed. He said he told the court then that he would be unavailable for trial from January through March.
Cahill also presided over last year’s trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 22 1/2 years for kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin, who is white, has been in prison since that conviction. He also pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge.