MINNEAPOLIS (Minnesota) • In an important win for the prosecution, a judge in Minneapolis on Thursday ruled that the four officers charged in the killing of Mr George Floyd, a Black man who took some of his last breaths under the knee of a white officer on a Minneapolis street corner in May, will stand trial together.
The judge also ruled that the news media can broadcast the trial, scheduled for next spring - an unusual move in Minneapolis, where courts are generally closed to cameras. The judge cited the coronavirus pandemic, which limits the number of people who can be in the courtroom at any time, and the immense national and international interest in the case.
"Protests demanding justice for George Floyd continue," Judge Peter Cahill of Hennepin County wrote in his ruling.
"It is expected that, even with some overflow courtrooms, the demand by family members, the public, and the press to attend the joint trial will outstrip the court's ability to provide meaningful access."
Judge Cahill said the trial will remain in the Twin Cities, but left open the possibility of moving it later if the court is unable to seat a jury untainted by the publicity the case has generated.
The defendants, including officer Derek Chauvin who pinned Mr Floyd to the ground for more than nine minutes, asked the court for a change of venue, arguing that they would not be able to receive a fair trial in Minneapolis because of pretrial publicity and the wide-scale protests against racial injustice Mr Floyd's death sparked there, around the country and the world.
Judge Cahill also ordered that the jurors remain anonymous and said they would be partially sequestered during the trial and ordered to meet at a secure location before being escorted to court.
Attorney-General Keith Ellison of Minnesota, whose office is overseeing the prosecution, said in a statement that he was satisfied with the court's decision.
Chauvin, who had been a 19-year-veteran on the force, is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and faces 40 years in prison if convicted.
The other officers, including two rookies who had helped Chauvin pin Mr Floyd to the pavement, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four former officers, who were fired after the incident, have been released on bail.
All four of the former officers had asked for separate trials and suggested in court filings that they each place blame for Mr Floyd's death onto one another. The prosecution, all along, has asked for one trial, arguing that multiple trials would traumatise Mr Floyd's family, eyewitnesses and the larger community, which faced weeks of unrest in the streets after the death.
In his ruling ordering one trial, Judge Cahill noted that the defence for all four defendants centres on similar arguments: that the use of force to subdue Mr Floyd was justified and that his death was caused by drugs found in his system and underlying health conditions.
The medical examiner has ruled Mr Floyd's death a homicide because of "cardiopulmonary arrest" from Chauvin's knee, with other causes considered contributing factors.