MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill has denied a motion to re-join the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee to the neck of the late George Floyd for minutes, with three other former officers accused in his death.

Cahill also ruled that Chauvin’s trial will begin in March as planned, following a request to push his trial to early summer, which is when the other three officers involved — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — are scheduled to be tried.

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Chauvin’s trial is scheduled to begin March 8.

“I’m disappointed in the order. Dr. Osterholm’s affidavit is substantial and compelling. We are considering our options for next steps,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed face down on the street. Police were investigating whether Floyd used a counterfeit bill at a nearby store. In a video widely seen on social media, Floyd could be heard pleading with officers for air, saying he couldn’t breathe.

Earlier, Cahill cited the limitations of physical space during the coronavirus pandemic for his order to split the defendants’ trials. It is “impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions” given how many lawyers and support personnel that four defendants say would be present. The judge added that, while the pandemic situation may be greatly improved by June, “the Court is not so optimistic given news reports detailing problems with the vaccine rollout.”

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Earl Gray, former officer Thomas Lane’s attorney said the ruling surprised him, and that he expects it will help his client.

”It’s very beneficial to my client, Mr. Lane, because now we can try the case and focus on Mr. Lane and not Mr. Chauvin,” Gray said.

If Chauvin is found not guilty, some legal observers says it’s possible, and even likely, that the charges could be dropped against the other former officers.

Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere and renewed calls for an end to police brutality and racial inequities.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Former officers Thao, Kueng and Lane are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Thao, Kueng and Lane are now scheduled to stand trial together beginning Aug. 23.

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