Some two weeks after one ex-Minneapolis police officer pleaded guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the murder of George Floyd, two other former cops charged in his death appeared in court on Tuesday to have their state trial pushed back and moved out of Minneapolis. Lawyers for Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng made their case before Judge Peter Cahill that Thomas Lane’s guilty plea as well as the guilty verdict against all three ex-officers in federal court would make seating an impartial jury impossible, the Star Tribune reported.

Thao’s attorney Robert Paule referenced a Star Tribune and PBS Frontline documentary that debuted on Tuesday, titled “Police on Trial.” “I’ve never had nor heard of a case in Minnesota with this much publicity,” Paule said. “I don’t know what other choice we have at this point (…)”

RELATED STORY: Three ex-cops who watched Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd convicted of violating his civil rights

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank begged to differ, arguing that people across the state are aware of the case and that changing the venue would have little impact. “Very little has really changed since your honor denied previous motions,” Frank said. He added that “we have faith in the ability of jurors to take their job seriously and do it fairly.”

Elie Mystal is on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast

In the federal case that swapped in alternate jurors repeatedly, a 12-person jury ultimately took about 13 hours to convict Thao, Kueng, and Lane in February 2022 of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Their peer, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, kneeled on the Black father’s neck for more than nine minutes and was convicted of murdering him. While Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison in the state case against him, he pleaded guilty to federal charges in a plea deal that caps any additional time in prison at two-and-a-half years. 

Lane’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 21, according to The Washington Post.

I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a media statement. “His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation.

“While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”

The state case against Kueng and Thao is slated to start on June 13, and it won’t be livestreamed. “There simply is no longer … the prospects of manifest injustice upon which this court relied in ordering livestreaming of the Chauvin trial,” Cahill said in a ruling the Star Tribune obtained.

RELATED STORY: Chauvin’s peers were offered plea deals and turned them down even after convictions in federal case

Federal court rules prevented livestreaming as an option in the ex-officers’ federal case, but the decision rested with Cahill in the state case. The judge had earlier indicated he wouldn’t allow the public broadcast, having only allowed Chauvin’s trial to be livestreamed in a rare exception to normal court rules because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 is less of a pandemic and more of an endemic issue now,” Cahill told the Associated Press. He also emphasized that while he has publicly stated he believes televised trials should be allowed, that is not the rule of the court yet and he is “still sworn to uphold the law.”

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