On June 6, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill granted motions byTou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng to postpone their criminal trials with a new date of January 5 for their commencement. The court also denied the defendants’ motion to change venue and the motion of the Media Coalition to reconsider the court’s previous barring of audio and video coverage of this trial.
The Reasons for Changing the Trial Date
The Minnesota Supreme Court has recognized that “continuance of a trial date has been recognized as an effective tool to diminish the effect of prejudicial pretrial publicity.” Here, the defendants have cited two such events.
- First, on May 18, 2022 (less than four week prior to the scheduled start of the trial co-defendant Thomas Lane pled guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. 
- Second, on February 24, 2022, Thao, Kueng and Lane were found guilty by a federal jury of violating George Floyd’s civil rights “based largely on the same evidence as will be introduced in Defendants Thao’s and Kueng’s joint state trial.”
“These two recent events and the publicity surrounding them are significant in they . . could make it difficult for jurors to presume Thao and Kueng innocent of the State charges.” A postponement of the trial for nearly seven months should “diminish the impact of this publicity on the Defendants’ right and ability to receive a fair trial from an impartial and unbiased jury.”
The Reasons for Denial of Change of Venue
Although there has been “saturation news coverage in the Twin Cities in print and broadcast media” of the George Floyd killing and subsequent court proceedings, the same is true “throughout the entire State of Minnesota—not to mention nationally.”
Moreover, “a prospective juror’s exposure to pretrial publicity does not alone create a reasonable likelihood of an unfair trial. . . . Instead, the issue is whether a prospective juror can set aside his or her impressions or opinions based on pretrial publicity, be fair and impartial, and render an impartial verdict.” In addition, this court has taken extensive measures in the earlier Chauvin trial and is now implementing those same measures for the trial of Thao and Kueng.
In addition, postponing the trial to January 2023 will put more than two and one-half years since the killing of Mr. Floyd; more than 20 months since the jury verdict in the Chauvin case;  almost eleven months since the jury verdict against Thao and Kueng in the federal civil rights trial; and probably four to six months since their upcoming sentencing in that federal trial.
Finally, this court has continued to impose “appropriate steps to ensure the selection of an impartial jury” and Hennepin County is “the most populous and diverse county in the state.”
The Reasons for Denial of Audio/Video Coverage
“With the reduction in the number of defendants, . . . [the trial courtroom] can now be configured, with the relaxed COVID protocols, to accommodate at least eighteen seats for the public . . . [which] does not amount to a courtroom closure.”
However, “if there is a significant rule change in place by [the commencement of this trial next January], the court would reconsider allowing audio and video coverage.”
Another consideration favoring the postponement of the trial not mentioned by Judge Cahill was providing additional time for these two defendants, especially after their federal sentencing, to consider attempting to negotiate an agreement with the prosecution for their pleading guilty to the state charges.
 Walsh, State Trial for fired Minneapolis officers Thao, Kueng delayed until January, Star Tribune (June 6, 2022); Order and Memorandum Opinion Concerning Trial, State v. Thao & Kueng, Court Files Nos. 27-CR-20-12949 & 27-Cr-20-12953, Hennepin County District Court (June 6, 2022).
 Ex-Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to State Charge of Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (May 18, 2022). Comment: More Details on Lane’s Guilty Plea, dwkcommentaries.com (May 19, 2022).
 Federal Criminal Trial for Killing George Floyd: Jury Deliberations and Verdict, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 25, 2022).
 Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Seven (Conviction), dwkcommentaries.com (April 21, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years Imprisonment, dwkcommentaries.com (June 28, 2021).
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