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Two Former Cops Charged in George Floyd’s Death Won’t Face Trial Until 2023 Due to Recent Pretrial Publicity, Judge Rules

Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng

Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng

The Minnesota judge who presided over the murder trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin has pushed back the trial date of two other former police officers charged in George Floyd’s death. Judge Peter Cahill on Monday agreed to move the trial date of Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng to January 2023, apparently as a way to “diminish the effect of prejudicial pretrial publicity.”

The opinion comes down less than a month after fellow former officer Thomas Lane pleaded guilty in the manslaughter case against him. In addition, several months before Lane pleaded guilty in the state case, Lane, Thao, and Kueng were each convicted by a federal jury of civil rights violations. Those two facts were of no small importance to the judge.

Although Judge Cahill denied a defense request to move the trial out of Hennepin County, he said publicity surrounding the Lane guilty plea and the federal convictions this close to the scheduled June 13 trial date is “particularly troublesome and does create a reasonable likelihood of an unfair trial.”

The judge said these realities “could make it difficult for jurors to presume Thao and Kueng innocent of the state charges.”

The defense was denied a change of venue, however.

“Finally, and most importantly, the Court is satisfied that a fair and impartial trial can eventually be had in had in Hennepin County, the most populous and diverse county in the state,” the judge wrote, putting “eventually” in bold.

The judge proceeded to set some deadlines and parameters: trial will begin Jan. 5, 2023 at 9 a.m.; motions in limine are set for Jan. 5 and Jan. 6; jury selection will begin on Jan. 9 at 9 a.m.; opening statements will begin on Jan. 30. Finally, Judge Cahill said that he would “not accept any negotiated plea agreements unless a change-of-plea hearing is scheduled not more than 15 days after the sentencing proceedings” in Thao and Kueng’s federal cases.

Read the order and memorandum opinion below:

[Images via Hennepin Co. Jail mugshots]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.