Judge Peter Cahill set a March 8, 2021, trial for the former officers but did not indicate whether they would be tried separately or together.
Derek Chauvin, 44, was arrested on May 29, four days after he was caught on camera pinning his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while the handcuffed black man struggled for air and begged for his life. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The three other officers at the scene, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Kueng and Lane posted bond on a $750,000 bail and have been out of custody. Thao is still behind bars on $1 million bail without conditions or $750,000 bail with conditions.
Chauvin, who appeared remotely via Zoom from the state prison at Oak Park Heights, is being held on $1.25 million bail. He was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and a mask. He agreed to the 2021 trial date, given the 8,000 pages of discovery against him. Discovery is the process where prosecutors share evidence in the case with defense attorneys ahead of the trial.
Prior to Monday’s hearing, Chauvin’s attorney had not commented publicly on the charges, while the defense attorneys for Thao, Kueng and Lane largely sought to minimize their clients’ roles in Floyd’s death, which has sparked massive protests across the country against unchecked police brutality and systemic racism.
Thao’s hearing followed Chauvin’s Monday afternoon. His attorney argued that comments made about Floyd’s death by President Trump and Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz have unfairly clouded the case against his client. He also said he would push for a change of venue due to the prejudicial pretrial publicity.
Kueng and Lane’s hearings followed. Both men agreed to a Sept. 11 hearing and a March 2021 trial date.
Earlier this month, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to pursue a community-led public safety system to replace the police department. The move came only days after a majority of the council voted to disband the police department as a direct result of Floyd’s death.
When Kueng, Lane and Thao appeared in court for their first hearing in early June, their defense attorneys blamed Chauvin, who has almost 20 years of experience under his belt, for killing Floyd. Lane was working his fourth shift and Kueng, his third, and their attorneys argued that they were simply following Chauvin’s lead.
Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, argued that Lane had asked Chauvin twice whether they should roll Floyd, who was struggling, onto his side, but was told no. Kueng’s lawyer, Thomas Plunkett, said his client took Floyd’s pulse and told colleagues he couldn’t detect one.
Video footage of the incident showed Lane restraining Floyd’s legs while Kueng held onto his back as a handcuffed Floyd laid stomach-down. Thao stood watch, dismissing bystanders’ concerns that Floyd was dying. Thao is seen staring ahead during the last few minutes of the 46-year-old’s life before Floyd is seen going limp.
Activists have claimed for years that the Minneapolis Police Department is rife with racism and that authorities have ignored the problem.
A Fox News investigation revealed that Chauvin and Thao have had more than a dozen conduct complaints against them in the past, but had not been formally reprimanded.
Chauvin has been the subject of 10 conduct complaints and three police shootings that led to no disciplinary action during his time on the force. Thao’s record includes allegations of police brutality and a lawsuit.
Chauvin, who joined the Minneapolis Police Academy in October 2001, also had a lawsuit against him that related to allegations he violated a prisoner’s federal constitutional rights.
In 2006, he was one of five officers who responded to a stabbing at the home of Wayne Reyes, a man police claimed stabbed his friend, his girlfriend and then threatened to kill them all with a shotgun. According to reports, police pursued Reyes, who got in his truck and fled. When he got out of the vehicle with the shotgun in his hand, officers fired several shots at Reyes, killing him. It was unclear which officer shot first. All five were put on paid leave while the incident was investigated.
Chauvin has also been the subject of three reviews from the Civilian Review Authority in which he was found to have used “demeaning tone, sustained,” “derogatory language, sustained,” and “language-other, sustained.”
He’s also been the subject of seven reviews by the local Office of Police Conduct, which all concluded the reviews had been “Closed-No discipline.”
Thao, a 10-year veteran of the force, was sued by a man who alleged Thao and two officers used excessive force during a 2014 arrest. According to that lawsuit, Thao brutally beat up a handcuffed man during an arrest before escorting him to jail in only his underwear and a T-shirt. The suit, which was eventually settled out of court, alleged Thao and another officer punched and kneed the man’s face and body, which resulted in broken teeth as well as other trauma and bruising.