Civil Rights Trial Opens for 3 Cops in George Floyd's Death

Prosecutors say they stood by as Chauvin killed Floyd 'right in front of them'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 24, 2022 2:30 PM CST
Civil Rights Trial Opens for 3 Cops in George Floyd's Death
This image from video shows Minneapolis police Officers Thomas Lane, left and J. Alexander Kueng, right, escorting George Floyd, center, to a police vehicle outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020.   (Court TV via AP, Pool, File)

(Newser) – Prosecutors in the trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights accused the men Monday of standing by as fellow officer Derek Chauvin "slowly killed George Floyd right in front of them." But one defense attorney countered that Chauvin called "all of the shots” as the senior officer at the scene, and criticized the Minneapolis Police Department for doing too little to train officers to intervene when a colleague should be stopped. Former Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao are charged with depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority. Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin pressed him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes while the Black man was facedown, handcuffed, and gasping for air.

Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs. Thao kept bystanders from intervening in the videotaped killing that triggered worldwide protests. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year. "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," prosecutor Samantha Trepel, who works for the Justice Department's civil rights division, told the jury during opening statements, per the AP. "They chose not to protect George Floyd, the man they had handcuffed and placed in their custody."

Tom Plunkett, Kueng's defense attorney, highlighted the rookie status of his client and Lane, and said both men deferred to Chauvin and called him "sir." He noted that Chauvin was Kueng’s field training officer, and as such had "considerable sway" over his future. He also said that Kueng and Lane were not trained in the department's policy on neck restraint. Kueng, who is Black; Lane, who is white; and Thao, who is Hmong American, are all charged for failing to provide Floyd with medical care. Thao and Kueng face an additional count for failing to stop Chauvin. Lane, Kueng, and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges they aided and abetted both murder and manslaughter. (Chauvin, who was found guilty on state charges including murder last year, pleaded guilty last month to violating Floyd's civil rights.)

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