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What's at stake as 4 ex-cops charged in George Floyd's death appear in court

Friday's hearing will cover a variety of topics, including motions to try the men separately and to move the trial out of Hennepin County.
Lane kueng thao chauvin

The four former Minneapolis police officers charged with murder in George Floyd's death have a hearing Friday morning in which several key issues will be discussed, including whether their cases should be one trial or tried separately. 

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill will hear arguments on a variety of motions filed by the prosecutors and the defense during the 9 a.m. hearing, court documents show. It's unclear if the judge will make any rulings on any of the motions during the hearing - it's more likely Cahill will issue written decisions on the motions in the days or weeks to come.

Derek Chauvin is charged with one count each of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He's being held at Oak Park Heights prison. His former colleagues – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao – are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. They're out of custody after posting bonds.

This is the first time the four men will appear in court together, and the first time Chauvin has attended a hearing in person, WCCO reports.

There are more than a dozen issues that are slated to be discussed in court Friday ahead of the trail, which is currently scheduled for a single trial that begins in early March. 

Here's a look at some of the main arguments, and what prosecutors and defense attorneys have said on each of them:

Trying all the defendants in one trial

Prosecutors have filed a motion to try Chauvin, Kueng, Lane and Thao at one trial, saying the charges against the defendants are similar, they acted in close concert with one another, eyewitnesses and family could be traumatized by multiple trials, and trying them separately would cause delay and burden the state. 

However, each defense attorney has filed a motion seeking their clients be tried separately, with each motion pointing fingers at the others for Floyd's death. Lane and Kueng's attorneys have argued they were rookies who were following Chauvin's lead, while Thao's attorney said his role was distinct because he was on crowd control while the other officers were restraining Floyd. 

Chauvin's attorney argues his client's circumstances are different than the other former officers and pretrial pleadings show the other defendants may seek to place blame on Chauvin, which is less likely if he was tried separately.

Relocating the trial

Each defense attorney filed separate motions to move the trial out of Hennepin County because pretrial publicity makes it difficult for them to get a fair trial due to a tainted jury pool. 

While prosecutors haven't filed any motions on this, it's not often that a trial actually gets moved, according to reports. Not even the Boston Marathon bomber's trial was moved out of Boston despite national publicity. 

Administrative items

Friday's hearing will also involve discussions on procedural matters, such as the method for jury selection, COVID-19 restrictions in the courtroom, overflow courtrooms, the length of the trial and the daily schedule.  

The defense attorneys have also filed motions to dismiss the charges, but that is not expected to be discussed at this hearing. 

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