Judge zeroes in on ‘outside influences’ in cases of Derek Chauvin’s peers

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Magnuson blocked a 13-year-old who witnessed Floyd’s death and the off-duty firefighter who just happened to be in the area to witness the murder from testifying. Firefighter Genevieve Hansen testified in the trial that led to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin being convicted of murder that Thao didn’t allow her to assist, even though she informed him that she was a firefighter

His response, Hansen said, was: “’If you really are a Minnesota firefighter you would know better than to get involved.’”

Floyd was detained outside of the Cup Foods convenience store after a teen clerk alleged to police that he suspected Floyd of trying to use a fake $20 bill. When police arrived, the situation escalated. And despite Floyd’s insistence that he could not get inside the back of a patrol car because he was claustrophobic, officers took him to the ground and piled on top of him at one point, according to footage taken by witnesses on the scene. Kueng’s attorney attempted a motion to raise doubts about Floyd’s claustrophobia, but Magnuson denied it along with another motion on Kueng’s behalf to “allow proper use of force testimony without prejudice.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified in Chauvin’s trial that his use of force, held for nine minutes and 29 seconds, violated department policy. There’s an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” Arradondo said,but once there was no longer any resistance and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive, and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone out, handcuffed behind their back, that, that in no way, shape, or form is anything that is by policy.

“It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”

It’s unclear if the police chief will be testifying in the trial of the other officers. Lane is being represented by Earl Gray, who also represented convicted former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter in the death of Daunte Wright. Thao’s attorney is Robert Paule. And Kueng is being represented by Thomas Plunkett, the attorney who defended former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the death of Justine Ruszczyk.

Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after shooting and killing Ruszczyk, who also used the last name Damond. She called 911 to report a potential sexual assault behind her home. Noor testified during his trial in 2019 that while he was a passenger in his partner’s car he heard a “loud bang on his squad car” that scared Noor so much he reached across his partner to fire through the driver’s side window. 

The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the third-degree murder conviction against Noor last September, determining the charge wasn’t applicable in his case, NPR reported. Because Noor was only sentenced on the murder count, his case returned to district court for sentencing on the manslaughter count, which is set to end in his supervised release on June 27, NBC-affiliated KARE 11 reportedHe will then be on supervised release until Jan. 24, 2024.

“The court ruled that third-degree murder cannot apply when a suspect’s actions are directed at a specific person, likely having a domino effect on several pending police prosecutions,” Minneapolis Star Tribune writers Chao Xiong and Rochelle Olson wrote. Third-degree murder requires a lower burden of proof than second-degree murder and is usually applicable when the accused acts in a way that endangers multiple people’s lives and kills one of those people, MSNBC’s Joy Reid explained during an interview with civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

While the Noor decision might not have much of an effect in Chauvin’s case because he was sentenced on the second-degree murder charge, it could have a “broader impact“ on the cases against Lane, Kueng, and Thao.

Federal prosecutor LeeAnn Bell said no plea deals are in the works for the accused men, according to the Associated Press.

Opening statements are expected to begin on Jan. 24, with attorneys predicting Lane and Kueng’s will take 40 minutes each, and Thao’s will take 30 minutes, the Spokesman-Recorder reported.

Jury selection will start Jan. 20, and the court plans to bring some 144 jurors in for voir dire in groups of 36 until the pool is narrowed to 12 and six alternates. Magnuson zeroed in on the element of “outside influences” during the trial, the Spokesman-Recorder reported. 

“Anarchy cannot exist and will not be permitted to exist,” Magnuson said. “Concerning because I don’t really care what issues exist or lack thereof, the rule of law must prevail. We have got to have fair and impartial juries who will impartially decide cases, period.”

The federal trial will not be broadcast live like the one in the state case against the officers, which is slated to start in March, according to CBS Minnesota.

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