Derek Chauvin's 3 police colleagues who helped restrain George Floyd face their day in court
By Eric Levenson, CNN
(CNN) -- The three former police officers who helped Derek Chauvin restrain George Floyd on a Minneapolis street in May 2020 are set to stand trial in a federal courtroom Monday for violating his civil rights.
J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao are charged with deprivation of rights under color of law for allegedly failing to give Floyd medical aid on May 25, 2020, the indictment states. Thao and Kueng are also charged with failing to intervene in Chauvin's use of unreasonable force as he kneeled on Floyd's neck and back for over 9 minutes.
Kueng, Lane and Thao have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, while Chauvin admitted guilt in December as part of a plea deal. Chauvin was also convicted last year on Minnesota state charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
A jury of five men and seven women was selected for the case on Thursday in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota. Opening statements are set for Monday at 10 a.m. CT.
The trial comes about 20 months after Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was handcuffed and pressed to the pavement on his stomach. Harrowing video taken by a bystander shows Floyd as he gasped for air, pleaded with the officers, "I can't breathe," and called for his mother.
The officers called for medical services but did not render aid to Floyd, who fell unconscious and stopped breathing. He remained in the same position until paramedics arrived and lifted his limp body into an ambulance, and he was declared dead later that night.
The video of his final moments sparked widespread protests and fiery unrest in a societal movement against police brutality and racial injustice. Less than two years later, the killing remains particularly difficult for Floyd's family to continue reliving.
"This trial will be another painful experience for the Floyd family, who must once more relive his grueling death in excruciating detail," Floyd family attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms said in a statement. "On behalf of the legal team and the family, we trust and expect that an impartial jury representative of the community will be seated to do this important work."
The federal case is separate from the state charges for Floyd's death. Kueng, Lane and Thao have pleaded not guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting, and that trial is tentatively set for June.
What this trial will focus on
The evidence at the federal trial will likely be broadly similar to Chauvin's murder trial in Minnesota state court last year. Federal prosecutors have said in court filings they plan to seek testimony from witnesses who watched the officers restrain Floyd, police use-of-force experts and medical experts.
Unlike in that case, though, the proceedings are not being televised because federal court does not allow cameras.
The three ex-officers' actions during Floyd's arrest in May 2020 were shown in detail during Chauvin's state trial in videos from bystanders, police body cameras and surveillance footage.
Chauvin, the most senior of the four officers, placed Floyd on his stomach on the street and kneeled on his neck and back. Kueng held down Floyd's torso and Lane held his legs, while Thao stood nearby and blocked concerned bystanders from getting close or intervening.
The officers kept Floyd in that position, handcuffed and prone on the ground, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, prosecutors said during Chauvin's trial. The officers at no point moved Floyd into a side recovery position to help with his breathing.
During the restraint, Lane is heard asking, "Should we roll him on his side?" and Chauvin responded, "No, staying put where we got him," according to body camera videos. Minutes later, Lane again said, "Want to roll him on his side?" the videos show. Kueng checked for Floyd's pulse but could not find one.
All four officers were fired in the wake of the bystander video's release, and they were arrested and charged days later.
Thao had been an officer for more than eight years, while Lane and Kueng were rookie officers with only a few days of experience, according to a criminal complaint.
Chauvin pleaded guilty in December to federal civil rights charges for violating Floyd's rights during the arrest. He also pleaded guilty in a separate federal case in which he was accused of depriving the rights of a 14-year-old in 2017 for kneeling on the back and neck of a handcuffed, non-resisting teenager.
As part of that plea agreement, Chauvin faces a sentence of between 20 and 25 years in prison to be served concurrently with his current 22.5-year sentence on the state murder charges.
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