Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis police officer accused of kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for more than eight minutes, will be tried separately from three other former officers accused in his death, a judge has ruled.
Chauvin will be tried on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in March, according to a court order filed Tuesday by Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill. Jury selection will begin March 8, and opening statements will begin no earlier than March 29, the judge ruled, according to media reports.
The separate trials are necessary because of coronavirus restrictions, Cahill said.
Former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, who are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter, are now scheduled for trial on Aug. 23.
All have pleaded not guilty.
Cahill had previously ruled that all four defendants should stand trial together, but said Tuesday even the largest courtroom in the county could not handle trying all four men together and maintain social distancing.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the former officers, said in a statement he favors trying them together to avoid traumatizing witnesses and relatives.
"It is also clear that COVID-19 will still be a serious threat to public health in 8 weeks' time," he said. "While we are confident that the Court has established protocols to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during trial, we believe, and independent public health experts agree, that with the advent of the vaccine the threat will be significantly abated by mid-year for everyone participating in or with an interest in this case," Ellison said.
Floyd's videotaped death on May 25 in south Minneapolis sparked nationwide outrage, protests and violence.