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Three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights are asking that their federal trials be separated from the trial of Derek Chauvin, who has already been convicted on state murder chargesBy AMY FORLITI Associated PressAugust 3, 2021, 8:03 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMINNEAPOLIS — Three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights are asking that their federal trials be separated from the trial of Derek Chauvin, who has already been convicted on state murder charges for kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the Black man pleaded for air.Attorneys for J. Kueng and Tou Thao said in court filings Tuesday that their clients would be unfairly prejudiced if they went to trial alongside Chauvin. An attorney for Thomas Lane filed a motion asking to join in his co-defendants’ request.Keung’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, said evidence against Chauvin would confuse the jury and deprive Kueng of his right to a fair trial. He also said there is a conflict of interest due to Chauvin’s level of culpability in Floyd’s death, saying “the jurors will not be able to follow the Court’s instructions and compartmentalize the evidence as it related to Mr. Kueng.”A federal grand jury indicted Chauvin, Kueng, Thao and Lane in May, alleging they violated Floyd’s rights while acting under government authority as Floyd was restrained face-down, handcuffed and not resisting.The four officers were also charged in state court, where Chauvin’s trial was eventually separated from the others due to space restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. The other three former officers face state trial next March on aiding and abetting counts.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.The requests to separate the trials were filed with several other routine requests on Tuesday.Bob Paule, an attorney for Thao, suggested in his filing that he wants Thao to be tried apart from all of his co-defendants, including Chauvin. While his filing mentions only Chauvin by name, it says: “The jury will have insurmountable difficulty distinguishing the alleged acts of each defendant from the alleged acts of his co-defendants.”Paule said Thao’s Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself would be in jeopardy if the trials were held together.“Mr. Thao will obtain a fair and more impartial trial he is tried separately from his co-defendants,” Paule wrote.The officers are scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 14. A trial date has not been set.Chauvin is also charged in a separate federal indictment alleging he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.———Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
The Minnesota judge who oversaw the trial of Derek Chauvin is denying prosecutors’ request to rewrite his sentencing order as it relates to the children and teens who saw George Floyd’s deathBy AMY FORLITI Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 8:57 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota judge who oversaw the trial of Derek Chauvin is denying prosecutors’ request to rewrite his sentencing order as it relates to the four girls who saw George Floyd’s death, saying Tuesday that they may have been emotionally traumatized but that the state failed to prove it.Attorney General Keith Ellison wrote last week that he wasn’t seeking to change Chauvin’s 22 1/2-year sentence, but he asked Judge Peter Cahill to modify his sentencing order to remove suggestions that the teens and young girl were not traumatized. He cited research showing children process trauma differently from adults, and that adults tend to discount the impact of trauma on Black girls.Cahill denied that request Tuesday, saying Ellison’s mischaracterization of his sentencing order and the “tone and substance” of Ellison’s request necessitated a response. Cahill wrote that he never said the four girls were not traumatized, but instead said evidence at trial did not present any “objective indicia of trauma.”“It is certainly possible that the witnesses experienced some level of emotional trauma from this incident, but the State failed to prove it,” Cahill wrote. He also said that while Ellison pointed to research that shows adults view Black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection, no evidence of that was presented prior to Chauvin’s sentencing.“Be that as it may, it is the State that is injecting supposed racial presumptions in this case, not this Court,” Cahill wrote. He said his sentencing order never mentions the race or ethnicity of the girls. He said the youngest, who was 9 years old at the time, and her then-17-year-old cousin are Black, but the other two teenagers, who are now 18, are white.“Whether ‘adultification’ of ‘Black girls’ is, as the State insists, ‘common in American society, including in the criminal justice system,’ this Court emphatically rejects the implication that it played any part in the Court’s sentencing decision,” Cahill wrote.He also said that while Ellison complains that the court did not hold a separate sentencing hearing, prosecutors had a right to request one but did not.Ellison’s office said Tuesday that it is reviewing the judge’s order.As part of his sentencing order, Cahill noted he had previously found aggravating factors that allowed him to sentence Chauvin to 10 years above the penalty presumed under state sentencing guidelines. He wrote that two of those factors justified a higher sentence: Chauvin’s abuse of his position of trust or authority as an officer, and his particularly cruel treatment of Floyd.Cahill also found the presence of children at the scene was an aggravating factor, but didn’t justify a longer sentence. He agreed with the defense that the girls were free to leave at any time, and said the prosecution’s evidence didn’t establish that they had been traumatized. He noted that two were seen smiling and laughing as officers kept Floyd pinned down.But Ellison wrote that Darnella Frazier, who shot a widely seen social media video of Floyd’s restraint, broke down crying on the stand while Alyssa Funari testified she had been unable to return to the scene since.“This evidence supports a commonsense conclusion: After they witnessed a brutal, minuteslong murder committed by police officers, the children suffered trauma,” Ellison wrote last week.Cahill said the court is constrained in ways “the media, the pundit class, and prosecutors are not.” He wrote that he can’t act on personal opinion, assumptions or presumptions, but has a duty to apply the law to the evidence and facts in the case and impose a sentence that is rational and just, helps to promote public safety and is proportional to the severity of the offense.He said that during sentencing, he explicitly said Chauvin’s sentence was not intended to “send a message.” He added the presence of the four underage girls was not a substantial and compelling reason for a longer sentence.———Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin faces sentencing Friday in the death of George Floyd, with a judge weighing a prison term experts say could be as much as 30 years.Chauvin, 45, was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe. It was an act captured on bystander video, which prompted protests around the world.Here’s what to watch for in a hearing that could run as long as two hours:WHAT’S POSSIBLE?Under Minnesota statutes, Chauvin will be sentenced only on the most serious charge of second-degree murder. That’s because all of the charges against him stem from one act, with one victim.The max for that charge is 40 years, but legal experts have said there’s no way he’ll get that much. Case law dictates the practical maximum Chauvin could face is 30 years — double what the high end of state sentencing guidelines suggest. Anything above that risks being overturned on appeal.Of course, Judge Peter Cahill could sentence Chauvin to much less. Prosecutors have asked for 30 years, while defense attorney Eric Nelson is seeking probation.Mark Osler, a professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, said both sides have staked out extreme positions, and the “gulf is huge between them. I don’t think that either side is going to end up getting what they want.”WHAT’S REALISTIC?Minnesota has sentencing guidelines that were created to establish consistent sentences that don’t consider factors such as race or gender. For second-degree unintentional murder, the guideline range for someone with no criminal record goes from 10 years and eight months to up to 15 years. The presumptive sentence is in the middle, at 12 1/2 years.Cahill last month agreed with prosecutors that aggravating factors in Floyd’s death warrant going higher than the guidelines. The judge found that Chauvin abused his position of authority, treated Floyd with particular cruelty, and that the crime was seen by several children. He also wrote that Chauvin knew the restraint of Floyd was dangerous.“The prolonged use of this technique was particularly egregious in that George Floyd made it clear he was unable to breathe and expressed the view that he was dying as a result of the officers’ restraint,” Cahill wrote last month.Osler said Cahill’s finding of aggravating factors showed his willingness to go above the guidelines. But he said those guidelines still function like a tether, and the further Cahill moves from the guidelines, the more the tether stretches. He said a 20- or 25-year sentence is more likely than 30.Joe Friedberg, a Minneapolis defense attorney who has been watching the case, agreed. He cited a U.S. Supreme Court case, Koon v. United States, in which the court said a judge could consider that a former police officer would likely spend much of his sentence in isolation for his own safety. Cahill might take the harder time into consideration to give Chauvin a little less, Friedberg said.WHAT’S HAPPENED BEFORE?Minnesota sentencing data for the five years through 2019 show that of 112 people sentenced for the same conviction as Chauvin, only two got maximum 40-year sentences. Both cases involved children who died due to abuse; both defendants had prior criminal records and struck plea deals.The longest sentence during that time period for someone with no criminal history like Chauvin was 36 years, in another case involving the death of a child due to abuse. The sentence was appealed but upheld, with an appellate court finding it “was not excessive when a 13-month-old child was beaten to death.”WHAT’S EXPECTED AT THE HEARING?Attorneys on both sides are expected to make brief arguments. Victims or family members of victims can also make statements about how they’ve been affected, but none have said publicly that they will.Chauvin can talk if he wants, but it’s not clear if he will. Experts say it could be tricky for Chauvin to talk without implicating himself in a pending federal case accusing him of violating Floyd’s civil rights.While some experts say Chauvin won’t talk, Mike Brandt, another defense attorney watching the case, said he thinks Chauvin will speak, and that he can say a few words without getting himself into legal trouble. “If I was him, I think I would want to try and let people know that I’m not a monster.”Community members can submit impact statements online, and they may become part of the public record.WHAT WILL CAHILL CONSIDER?Cahill will look at arguments submitted by both sides, as well as victim impact statements, community impact statements, a pre-sentence investigation into Chauvin’s past, and any statement Chauvin might make.When judges hear from defendants, they are typically looking to see if the person takes responsibility for the crime or shows remorse. Friedberg, the defense attorney, said he doubts any statement from Chauvin would affect Cahill’s sentence.“In state court sentencing in Minnesota it just doesn’t seem to matter to the judges what anybody says at the time of sentencing,” Friedberg said. “When they come out on the bench they will have already decided what the sentence will be.”HOW LONG ACTUALLY BEHIND BARS?No matter what sentence Chauvin gets, in Minnesota it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds in prison and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole.That means if Chauvin is sentenced to 30 years, he would likely serve 20 behind bars, as long as he causes no problems in prison. Once on supervised release, he could be sent back to prison if he violates conditions of his parole.Since his April conviction, Chauvin has been held at the state’s only maximum security prison, in Oak Park Heights. That’s unusual — people don’t typically go to a prison while waiting for sentencing — but Chauvin is there for security reasons. He has been on “administrative segregation” for his safety and has been in a 10 foot-by-10 foot cell, away from the general population. He has meals brought to his room, and is allowed out for solitary exercise for an average of one hour a day.It wasn’t immediately clear where he would serve his time after he is sentenced. The Department of Corrections will place Chauvin after Cahill’s formal sentencing order commits Chauvin to its custody.————Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors say the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death should not be granted a new trial, because the proceedings were fair and Derek Chauvin was found guilty by an impartial jury, according to a court document filed Wednesday.The state’s document came in response to defense requests to grant Chauvin a new trial and to hold a hearing to question jurors about alleged misconduct. Among other things, defense attorney Eric Nelson said intense pretrial publicity, alleged prosecutorial misconduct and some decisions by the court made it impossible for Chauvin to get a fair trial.Prosecutors said Nelson’s claims were without merit and were desperate attempts to “undo the jury’s verdict.”“This Court has rejected many of these arguments before, and there is no reason for a different result now. Defendant’s scattershot and unavailing attempts to overturn his conviction should be denied,” prosecutors wrote, adding: “Defendant was unanimously convicted on all three counts based on evidence of his overwhelming guilt. He now seeks to escape his lawful conviction by any means.”It’s not clear when Judge Peter Cahill will rule.Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of Floyd, a Black man who was pinned to the ground for about 9 ½ minutes as he said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin will be sentenced June 25.Requests for a new trial are fairly routine, but they are rarely granted. The arguments raised in such requests are typically raised again on appeal. Requests for a hearing to question jurors about alleged misconduct are uncommon. Experts have said there is a high bar to hold such a hearing, and an even higher bar to invalidate a verdict.Among his arguments, Nelson said intense publicity — both before the trial and due to events during it — tainted the jury pool and prejudiced jurors against his client.There were reports in February that Chauvin had been prepared to plead guilty to third-degree murder. During jury selection, a $27 million settlement was announced between Minneapolis and Floyd’s family. And during Chauvin’s trial, Daunte Wright was fatally shot by a police officer in nearby Brooklyn Center, sparking days of protests.Nelson said Cahill abused his discretion when he denied earlier requests to move the trial out of Hennepin County, postpone the trial and sequester the jury.Prosecutors disagreed, saying Chauvin got a fair trial and nothing requires the court to take the extraordinary step of overturning the verdict. They said the court made sound decisions to manage the trial and those decisions did not prejudice Chauvin in any way. They cited the lengthy process of questioning the jury and the fact that the judge kept the jury anonymous. They also noted that each side got additional strikes, and that the defense still had strikes remaining when a jury was picked.“A juror’s mere exposure to pretrial publicity does not create a reasonable likelihood of an unfair trial,” prosecutors wrote. They said that 326 potential jurors returned answers to more than 69 questions in a questionnaire and Nelson was given leeway when he questioned jurors. “This process was well-designed to weed out biased jurors and ensure a fair trial,” they wrote.Nelson also asked for a Schwartz hearing to “impeach” the verdict, which means a hearing to call into question the integrity or validity of a verdict. Under Minnesota’s Rules of Criminal Procedure, a defendant can ask the court for a hearing to investigate possible juror misconduct. Prosecutors say that request should be denied.Nelson alleges an alternate juror, who did not deliberate, made public comments after the trial indicating she felt pressured to render a guilty verdict.He also alleged that a juror who did deliberate, Brandon Mitchell, didn’t follow jury instructions and was not candid during jury selection because he didn’t mention his participation in an Aug. 28 march in Washington, D.C., to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson also alleged Mitchell made comments indicating he based his verdict on outside influence.Prosecutors said comments made by the alternate juror are irrelevant because she didn’t deliberate. In Mitchell’s case, they said, Nelson has mischaracterized the comments Mitchell made to the media. They said Mitchell filled out the lengthy juror questionnaire and made his views known during the jury selection process.“Any fair reading of this record shows that Juror 52 honestly disclosed his views on a range of issues, including his impressions of Black Lives Matter, the criminal justice system, the case, and his desire to serve on this jury,” prosecutors wrote.They said that Mitchell correctly characterized the event in Washington as a civil rights march, and that Nelson’s claims that he should have disclosed it fall short.———Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
MINNEAPOLIS — A St. Paul man accused of speeding up and driving into a group of protesters in Minneapolis while he was drunk, killing one person, was charged Wednesday with intentional second-degree murder.Prosecutors say Nicholas Kraus, 35, was visibly intoxicated Sunday night when he sped up and tried to “jump” a car that was being used as a barricade by protesters in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. Thirty-one-year-old Deona Knajdek, also known as Deona Erickson, was killed.There’s nothing in the criminal complaint to suggest Kraus’ actions were motivated by political views or anger at protesters. The murder count alleges Kraus intended to cause death, but his actions were not premeditated. He’s also charged with two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, for injuring two other protesters.According to the criminal complaint, Kraus told officers he saw the car and believed he needed to get over it. He said he saw people in the area, but “he accelerated in order to try and jump the barricade and acknowledged that he did not attempt to brake,” the complaint says. It also says he admitted that he thought he might have hit someone.Kraus will make his first court appearance Friday and it wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney to comment on his behalf. He’s being held at the Hennepin County jail, which does not take messages for people in custody.Protests have been ongoing in Uptown since members of a U.S. Marshals Service task force fatally shot Winston Boogie Smith Jr., a 32-year-old Black man and father of three, on June 3. Authorities said they were trying to arrest Smith on a warrant for being a felon in possession of a firearm when he displayed a handgun from inside a parked SUV. Authorities also say evidence shows Smith fired his gun from inside the SUV, but a female passenger has said she never saw him with a gun.Minneapolis has been on edge since the death of George Floyd, who died last year after an officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground, and the fatal police shooting of another Black man, Daunte Wright, in a nearby suburb.On Tuesday, city crews began clearing and reopening streets near the site of Smith’s shooting and Knajdek’s death, but after police left, protesters moved back in and blocked traffic. Police say 30 people were arrested Tuesday night, with most receiving misdemeanor citations.The street was open to traffic Wednesday afternoon. Though obstructions to traffic were removed, a memorial featuring messages in chalk and flowers left by mourners remained intact.The Minnesota National Guard tweeted that — at the request of the city — it was prepared to send about 100 soldiers to Minneapolis in the event of unrest.Witnesses have said Kraus was driving an SUV when he struck a parked car, sending it into the crowd of demonstrators. Police said protesters pulled Kraus from his vehicle and witnesses reported demonstrators struck him. Kraus was arrested and treated for injuries at a hospital.Kraus has five convictions for driving while impaired dating back to a 2007 incident, according to online court records. At one point, he told officers that the SUV he was driving on Sunday was in another person’s name because he had no license due to his drunken driving offenses, the complaint says. Court records show his driver’s license was canceled in 2013.A search warrant affidavit seeking a blood sample from Kraus says he admitted several times that he was the driver, without being asked, but when asked specific questions he gave illogical and irrelevant answers. Kraus told police his name was Jesus Christ and Tim Burton, that he had been a carpenter for 2,000 years, and that he wanted to get his children to the Super Bowl, the affidavit says.The officer tried to perform a field sobriety test, but Kraus “was unable to follow directions and would not keep his eyes open long enough to complete the test,” the affidavit said.Results from the blood tests are pending.Other injuries and deaths have been reported involving vehicles at protests across the U.S. as people have increasingly taken to the streets to press their grievances. In Minneapolis, marching onto freeways has become a common tactic. Last year, a semitrailer rolled into a crowd marching on a closed freeway. No one was seriously injured.Republican politicians in several states, including Oklahoma, Florida and Iowa, have sought legal immunity for drivers who hit protesters.———Associated Press/Report for America writer Mohamed Ibrahim contributed to this report.
MINNEAPOLIS — The teenager who pulled out her cellphone and began recording when she saw George Floyd being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer was given a special citation by the Pulitzer Prizes on Friday for her video that helped to launch a global movement to protest racial injustice.Darnella Frazier was cited “for courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality, around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice,” the Pulitzer Prizes said.Frazier was not giving interviews to the media, her publicist said Friday.Frazier was 17 when she recorded the arrest and death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on May 25, 2020. She testified at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin that she was walking to a corner grocery store to get snacks with her then-9-year-old cousin when she saw a man being pinned to the pavement, “terrified, scared, begging for his life.”She said she didn’t want her cousin to see what was happening so she ushered the girl into the store then went back out to the sidewalk and began recording because “it wasn’t right. He was suffering. He was in pain.” She kept recording even though she said she felt threatened when Chauvin ignored the cries of bystanders and pulled out his Mace as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds.Her video, which shows Floyd repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe before going limp, was posted to Facebook hours after it was recorded, sparking outrage in Minneapolis and beyond. It was also a prominent piece of evidence in Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He will be sentenced June 25.The Pulitzer Board also announced Friday that the Star Tribune of Minneapolis won the breaking news reporting prize for its coverage of Floyd’s murder and its aftermath.Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, said in a column for Nieman Lab last month that Frazier should win a Pulitzer for her video. Clark, who has been a Pulitzer juror five times, told The Associated Press on Friday that Frazier was like the many journalists or artists who have won Pulitzer Prizes for standing up for tolerance, equality and social justice.“There she was, at 17, sort of witnessing an injustice and she stood there in the face of threats and captured that video,” he said, adding, “It would be hard to select, even from the work of professional journalists over recent years or decades, a 10-minute video that had as profound an impact as this young woman’s video did.”Frazier’s video was “globe shaking,” spoke truth to power and gave a voice to the voiceless, Clark said.It’s unusual but not unprecedented for the Pulitzer Board to award citizens who capture news events; the famous photo of a firefighter cradling an infant after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was taken by Charles Porter IV, a bank credit officer, and distributed by the AP.Clark said the special citation that Frazier received recognizes exceptional work that falls outside specific award categories. The honor puts Frazier on a list with Ida B. Wells, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, for their response to a 2018 shooting in their newsroom.Frazier was also given the PEN/Benenson Courage Award last year by PEN America, a literary and human rights organization.PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said at the time: “With nothing more than a cellphone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history in this country, sparking a bold movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and violence at the hands of police.”During her testimony at Chauvin’s trial, Frazier told jurors that she sometimes wishes she had done more to help Floyd. She said she looks at her father and other Black men in her life and thinks about “how that could have been one of them.”“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she testified, adding of Chauvin: “But it’s like, it’s not what I should’ve done, it’s what he should’ve done.”The three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are scheduled to face trial next year on aiding and abetting counts. All four officers are also charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights.———Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd