Federal trial begins against 3 former officers in George Floyd civil rights case

The federal trial against three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights in May 2020 commenced Monday, according to AP. The prosecutor alleged the three officers, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, violated Floyd’s civil rights by failing to intervene as former officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground.

Thao, Kueng and Lane were indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2021. All three former officers were charged with depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority and failing to provide medical care. Thao and Kueng were also charged with willfully violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by failing to intervene in Chauvin’s actions during the arrest.

Chauvin, who was included in the federal indictment, pled guilty to one count of violating Floyd’s civil rights in December 2021. Chauvin is currently serving a 22 and half year sentence in state prison following a guilty verdict on counts of second and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The case against Thao, Kueng, and Lane began before a panel of 18 jurors (12 to deliberate and six alternates). The prosecutor, Samantha Trepel of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, gave the opening statement. In it, she presented jurors with Lane’s body camera footage which showed Floyd’s struggle and the inactions of the three former officers. “For second after second, minute after minute, these three, CPR-trained defendants, stood or knelt next to officer Chauvin as he slowly killed George Floyd right in front of them,” Trepel said.

Defense attorneys for the three former officers in their opening statements tried to cast blame on Derek Chauvin, the officers’ inexperience and a lack of proper training from the Minneapolis police department.

The trial resumes today with US District Judge Paul Magnuson overseeing the case. Judge Magnuson predicted that the trial could last up to four weeks. All three former officers also face June trials in state court for charges of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder and manslaughter.