Prosecutors in the George Floyd case shot back Friday at claims that they delayed sharing important evidence with defense attorneys for months, saying they turned over the documents in question within days of receiving them while calling the accusation a ploy from the defense to buy more time.
Robert and Natalie Paule, who represent former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, filed the motion last week asking Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to move the trial ahead four months, from March 8 to July 5, because of the delays.
In a response filed Friday, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank countered that the evidence in question was not initially in the state's possession, and once it was, prosecutors turned it over to the defense within days, not months. He noted that the motion by Thao's attorneys was filed four days before a deadline to disclose expert witnesses to the prosecution.
"His unfounded allegation of a discovery violation appears to be nothing more than cover for a request for more time to meet his disclosure obligation," Frank wrote.
According to Thao's motion, Cahill issued an order on June 30 ordering prosecutors to share all evidence by Aug. 14, but prosecutors delayed sharing more than 15,000 pages of evidence over eight different incidents. The defense attorney for ex-officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder after planting his knee into Floyd's neck for about nine minutes, filed a similar motion this week.
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.
Thao's attorneys took particular issue with a delay in sharing an interview that Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker gave to investigators on July 8.
Baker told investigators that Floyd's death was caused by his health issues combined with his exertion and restraint by police before he was eventually pinned on his stomach.
Prosecutors were aware of the interview by at least Aug. 7, but didn't disclose it to the defense until Oct. 28, Thao's motion said.
Frank argued the materials Thao demanded included his file from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, which is a federal agency, and that the state was not required to produce it because it wasn't under the control of their office. After the state requested and received the file, it was given to the defense within nine days.
In response to Thao's argument that the documents should have been turned over within 24 hours as ordered by the court, Frank said "this is a complex case."
"It can be practically difficult — if not impossible — to meet the 24-hour deadline," Frank wrote. "The State takes its disclosure obligations seriously and continually endeavors to make disclosures as promptly as it can. The state disclosed these documents to Thao nine days after receiving them and more than six weeks ago."
However, Frank said the state was not opposed to a two-week extension of Thao's deadline to produce expert witnesses.
Abby Simons • 651-925-5043