By Jonathan Allen ST. PAUL, Minn. (Reuters) -A jury was due to hear opening statements on Monday in the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers who took part in the deadly arrest of George Floyd. Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights during […]
Three Minneapolis ex-police officers face trial for George Floyd arrest
By Jonathan Allen
ST. PAUL, Minn. (Reuters) -A jury was due to hear opening statements on Monday in the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers who took part in the deadly arrest of George Floyd.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest of the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man on a road outside a Minneapolis grocery store in May 2020, video of which sparked street protests against racism and police brutality around the world.
Last year, their former colleague Derek Chauvin https://www.reuters.com/world/us/ex-policeman-derek-chauvin-be-sentenced-george-floyds-murder-2021-06-25, 45, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death at the end of a nationally televised state trial in April 2021, and a Minnesota judge sentenced him to 22-1/2 years in prison.
Chauvin, who is white, was also charged alongside his colleagues by federal prosecutors with violating Floyd’s civil rights in their capacity as police officers. Chauvin changed his plea to guilty last December. Thao, Kueng and Lane https://www.reuters.com/world/us/after-chauvin-sentencing-charges-remain-police-officers-floyd-case-2021-06-25, who could face years in prison if convicted, have all pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division will seek to convince the jury the men willfully failed to help Floyd as he fell unconscious while Chauvin knelt on his neck. The indictment says https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1392451/download a person under arrest has a right to “be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.”
Thao and Kueng face an additional count in the indictment, which says they willfully failed to stop Chauvin using excessive force against a prone, handcuffed Floyd, violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
Before opening statements in the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Judge Paul Magnuson again expressed his concern about COVID-19, fearing that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant could cause delays in the trial.
“If any of you do become ill, and I hope you won’t, I ask that you get tested as soon as possible,” he said.
Thao had worked for the Minneapolis Police Department for eight years. Lane and Kueng, who helped restrain Floyd’s lower body, had joined only a few months prior to the arrest, and Chauvin was their field training officer, something their defense lawyers are expected to emphasize.
After the federal trial, the three men still face a state trial for aiding and abetting the murder of Floyd.
(Reporting by Jonathan AllenEditing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker)