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Motions filed to delay trial in George Floyd's death

Robert Paule, attorney for Tou Thao, accuses the state of dragging its feet on sharing discovery material with the defense. Derek Chauvin's lawyer concurs.
Credit: KARE
Derek Chauvin (L), Tou Thao (R)

MINNEAPOLIS — The attorneys for two of the former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd are asking for the trial to be delayed, after accusing state prosecutors of violating a court order to share discovery material with the defense.

Robert Paule, defense attorney for former officer Tou Thao, filed a motion with the court last Friday asking that the trial, now slated to begin March 8, be moved to July 5 instead. Paule also asked Judge Peter Cahill to extend the date for defense attorneys to disclose their expert witnesses, and to order the state to pay defense attorneys fees and costs associated with the requested four-month delay. 

Derek Chauvin's lawyer Eric Nelson filed a similar motion on Monday, Dec. 14.

In his motion, Paule accuses the state prosecution team of continuing to delay discovery, which is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about witnesses and evidence they'll present at trial. Discovery is crucial for attorneys, allowing them to prepare for arguments they'll face at trial. 

RELATED: Judge orders single trial for 4 former officers in George Floyd's death, keeps trial in Hennepin County

"The State has held onto exculpatory evidence they had knowledge about for months without disclosing it to the Defense," Paule argues in his motion. "To date, the State has untimely disclosed evidence eight times amounting to over 15,000 pages of evidence."

Paule also accuses prosecutors of withholding "potentially exculpatory" evidence for months, pointing specifically to information gleaned from an interview the state held with Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker on July 8. Paule maintains that the information was improperly withheld until October 28, when it was released in an FBI report. 

The motion asks for: 

  1. A continuance of the trial date from March 8, 2021 to July 5, 2021 ("representing the four months the State has disregarded this Court’s discovery deadline," according to Paule.)
  2. An extension of the defense date for initial disclosures of expert witnesses 
  3. An order directing the State to pay attorneys fees and costs caused by the delay of and manner in which the discovery was provided

In his motion to push the trial back, Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson also maintains that the prosecution team has been late in sharing its discovery material, and says the files he actually has received are a disorganized mess. 

"The PDF files are in absolutely no discernable order," Nelson writes in an affidavit to the court. "It appears as if the state has printed the reports, shuffled them like a deck of cards, and scanned them back into the computer to be disclosed."

Nelson says the time required to go through and reorganize what the state has submitted should instead be going toward putting together a defense for his client. He is asking for:

  1. A modification or extension of time for the Defendant to make initial expert witness disclosures. 
  2. An order requiring the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, through the Attorney General’s Office, to produce an exact duplicate copy of the BCA’s investigative disclosures made to the Attorney General containing date stamps. 
  3. A continuance of the jury trial currently scheduled for March 8, 2020. (Nelson names no date for the requested continuance)
  4. Any further relief the court deems just.

So far, the state has not issued a comment on the motions.