Prosecutor’s filing details why Freeman, others should stay on Floyd case

Monday,

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office filed a motion Monday for a judge to reconsider his order to disqualify four prosecutors from the murder case against four former Minneapolis Police Officers in the death of George Floyd.

In the motion filed with Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill, assistant Hennepin County Attorney Joshua Larson wrote that “there is no rule which requires the inclusion of a non-attorney witness when speaking to an experienced and routine government witness.” In this case, the four attorneys, including Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman were speaking with Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, who routinely testifies in criminal cases and is a government employee.

The motion also includes an affidavit by William J. Wernz, former director of the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility and past president of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, a national organization of lawyers practicing in the area of legal ethics. He is an expert on Rule 3.7 of Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, which Judge Cahill used as the basis for disqualifying Freeman and the other three lawyers.

Wernz concluded in his four-page affidavit that “…in my opinion, the interviews of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner by HCAO (Hennepin County Attorney’s Office) did not furnish any basis for a conclusion that they violated Rule 3.7.”

In his affidavit, Wernz also noted that he had no dealings with any of the parties before Friday’s ruling, that he is not being paid for his time and doing this “solely for I believe to be the interests of proper understanding and application of a Rule of Professional Conduct.”

In Friday’s pre-trial hearing to consider motions in the murder case against Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng, Chauvin’s attorney asked to have the four prosecutors disqualified from the case. Judge Cahill granted the disqualification, saying they should have had a non-attorney in the room during the interview.

No schedule has been set for a decision by the judge on the reconsideration motion.

Hennepin County Attorney's Office Motion (PDF)

Affidavit (PDF)