A defense attorney for the ex-Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd accused prosecutors of mishandling how they share evidence with the defense — including burying important information in between irrelevant material, providing duplicates of the same item and turning over thousands of pages of unrelated documents.
Eric Nelson, who represents Derek Chauvin, filed a motion and affidavit Monday accusing Attorney General Keith Ellison's office of delaying his progress in Chauvin's case.
"With every single round of discovery that has been disclosed there have been numerous problems and issues involving the manner in which the state disclosed it," Nelson wrote. "…Substantive evidence is often 'hay stacked' between other information."
Nelson asked Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to postpone his client's March 8 trial to an unspecified date because of the alleged issues with "discovery," the process of sharing evidence.
Ellison's office could not be immediately reached for comment, but it responded to a similar motion filed last week by Robert Paule, who is representing Tou Thao.
Nelson and Paule both accused Ellison's office of sharing evidence late.
"The defense motion is without merit," Ellison said of Paule's claims. "The state disputes the defense's inaccurate characterizations, and we look forward to providing the facts in our response to the court."
Paule asked Cahill to sanction the state, order the state to pay some of his attorney's fees and costs, and to move Thao's trial to July 5.
Chauvin, Thao and their former Minneapolis police colleagues, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, are scheduled to be tried together. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and the other three are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Nelson did not ask for a sanction, but asked for "any further relief the court deems just," among other requests. He accused prosecutors of disorganization.
"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 wrote, adding that he has had to reorganize the evidence in a "massive undertaking."
Cahill issued an order on June 30 ordering prosecutors to share all evidence with defense attorneys by Aug. 14. He ordered that any evidence prosecutors came across afterward be shared within 24 hours.
Nelson said that 78 percent of the evidence prosecutors shared before the deadline consisted of Minneapolis police training materials dating as far back as 2005, while some evidence relevant to Floyd's May 25 killing was shared late.
"The manner in which the State has conducted discovery has significantly prejudiced counsel's ability to defend and Officer Chauvin's right to a complete defense…," Nelson wrote.
According to Nelson's motion and affidavit: Seventy-five percent of the PDF files cannot be digitally searched unless they are converted multiple times into different files, and prosecutors shared 17 copies of the same approximately 50-page Taser training document.
They also shared "numerous" copies of Minneapolis police's plans for the 2018 Super Bowl and 2008 Republic National Convention.
Prosecutors turned over irrelevant training documents for the mounted patrol, bait cars and other topics.
"There are hundreds of one or two page documents within the training materials," Nelson wrote.
Prosecutors were "somewhat deceiving" in how they numbered evidence, often assigning one number to multiple items. In one case, one number was assigned to 93 separate audio files.
Nelson has received nearly 40,000 numbered items, but said it would be closer to 80,000 if each item were numbered separately.
"The amount of audio and video files involved in this case is astounding," Nelson wrote.
He accused prosecutors of sharing evidence in a format that is inconsistent with how prosecutors would have received it from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which investigated Floyd's death along with federal authorities.
Nelson said based on his previous experience working on other cases and other officer-involved incidents, the BCA provides information to prosecutors in a "cohesive and coherent" file.
Nelso said he has spent "signficant" time and finances organizing the evidence, delaying his ability to find appropriate expert witnesses to review the information.
Nelson asked Cahill to extend the deadline for defense attorneys to disclose their expert witnesses and to order the BCA to turn over the files it shared with Ellison's office.
"It should be noted that the global profile of this case has also contributed to the delay in retaining experts willing or able to participate," Nelson wrote.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708