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Judge in George Floyd trial denies request to use 16 past incidents as evidence against former Minneapolis police officers

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/27/2021 Grace Hauck, USA TODAY
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Evidence related to 16 incidents involving former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's death, as well as evidence related to Floyd's prior arrest and conviction, cannot be brought up at trial, a judge ruled in an order made public Tuesday.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill did not explain his decision but said an opinion would follow. Under Minnesota law, evidence of prior acts can be admitted at trial to establish, among other things, "intent, knowledge, lack of mistake or accident, modus operandi, or a common scheme or plan."

Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, was killed May 25 after Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. All four officers involved were fired.

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Chauvin, charged with unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, is scheduled to stand trial alone in March. The three other former officers – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – are charged with aiding and abetting both counts. They are scheduled to stand trial together this summer.

A demonstrator holds a George Floyd placard in front the American embassy in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, June 7, 2020 during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd and victims of racial injustice. © Bernat Armangue, AP A demonstrator holds a George Floyd placard in front the American embassy in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, June 7, 2020 during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd and victims of racial injustice.

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Prosecutors sought to admit evidence at trial of eight previous incidents involving Chauvin to demonstrate that the former officer did "intentionally assault Mr. Floyd in a manner inconsistent with training." Cahill granted the state's motion in part, admitting evidence from two of the eight incidents.

The six other incidents involved Chauvin's use of force or restraint techniques, including when Chauvin restrained people by applying pressure to the neck area. In one incident, Chauvin "continued to restrain the male in this position beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances," according to the state.

Cahill granted the state's motion to include evidence of two incidents. According to court filings, on Aug. 22, 2015, Chauvin responded to a "suicidal, intoxicated, and mentally disturbed" man and saw other officers "fight with and tase" the man. The officers put the man in a position "consistent with training," and Chauvin rode with the man to the hospital.

"Officers involved in the response received a commendation for their appropriate efforts and received feedback from medical professionals that, if officers had prolonged their detention of the male or failed to transport the male to the hospital in a timely manner, the male could have died," the state said.

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In the second incident, on June 25, 2017, Chauvin "restrained an arrested female by placing his knee on her neck while she laid in prone position on the ground ... and continued to restrain the female in this position beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances," according to court filings.

Prosecutors also sought to admit evidence of nine incidents involving Thao and one incident involving Kueng, but Cahill denied the motions. The state moved to admit evidence that Thao falsified a police report, attempted to manipulate a domestic abuse victim and more. Prosecutors also sought to admit evidence of an incident involving Kueng's use of force and restraint techniques.

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Lawyers for the former officers were denied in their request to admit evidence of Floyd's 2007 conviction for aggravated robbery in Harris County Texas, as well as his 2019 arrest by Minneapolis police in which they said he acted in a way similar to his behavior on the day of his death.

The Office of the Minnesota Attorney General did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the judge's order.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Judge in George Floyd trial denies request to use 16 past incidents as evidence against former Minneapolis police officers

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