Prosecutors in the case against four ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd denied defense attorneys' claims that they did not properly disclose evidence and caused delays.
Attorney General Keith Ellison's office, which is leading the prosecution, filed a memorandum last week noting that its staff provided evidence as it became available and did not hide information.
"It is unreasonable and unrealistic to think that all investigation and preparation of reports in a complex murder case involving four defendants would all be finished within two months of the murder, and nothing further would be done," said the memorandum written by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank. "… The manner in which the State discloses material in this case is necessitated by the ongoing nature of this complex case. …"
The filing was in response to a motion filed in mid-December by defense attorney Eric Nelson, who is representing Derek Chauvin.
Nelson claimed that prosecutors sandwiched key information in between unimportant material, provided duplicates of the same items, turned over thousands of pages of irrelevant documents and shared evidence after court-ordered deadlines.
"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."
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's May 25 death. Three of his former colleagues — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Nelson asked Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to postpone the defendants' March 8 trial to an unspecified date because of issues with "discovery," the process of prosecutors sharing evidence with defense attorneys.
Thao's attorneys, Robert Paule and Natalie Paule, filed a motion preceding Nelson's that made similar allegations. They requested that the trial be postponed until July 5 and that Cahill sanction prosecutors.
Last week, prosecutors also asked for a three-month delay in the trial, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the amount of time needed for enough people to be vaccinated to diminish health risks.
According to Frank's Dec. 31 memorandum: Prosecutors shared evidence as it was presented to them, they did not edit or rearrange documents, and some evidence was shared after an Aug. 14 deadline because they originated with other governmental offices outside the attorney general's control. Cahill ordered prosecutors to share any evidence that came in after the deadline within 24 hours.
Instances of duplication or allegedly irrelevant materials were the result of prosecutors sharing all documents provided by Minneapolis police, Frank wrote.
"The State could not possibly spend the time examining each record word-for-word to assure that it was a duplicate and still make prompt disclosures," Frank wrote. "And even if there were duplicates, the State could not remove them because their duplications could indicate how many times each officer received that training. … The State could not make a determination for the Defendants as to which training materials were relevant."
Nelson argued that 78% of the evidence prosecutors shared before the August deadline consisted of police training materials while some evidence relevant to Floyd's killing was shared later.
Prosecutors also shared 17 copies of the same Taser training document and "numerous" copies of Minneapolis police's plans for the 2018 Super Bowl and 2008 Republican National Convention.
Nelson's complaint that evidence was not shared as a cohesive file was due to prosecutors not receiving evidence as a cohesive file, Frank wrote. Prosecutors shared records and reports "as they became available and promptly."
"The State is working from the same set of discovery disclosures as the Defendants," Frank wrote. "The State too has had to expend significant time and resources reviewing and organizing the discovery in this complex case."
A hearing on the issue, requests from two defense attorneys and prosecutors to postpone the trial and other matters is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708