© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR News

A jury has been seated in the civil rights trial in George Floyd's death

Former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao (left to right) are set to go on trial in federal court charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights.
AP
Former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao (left to right) are set to go on trial in federal court charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights.

Updated January 20, 2022 at 10:32 PM ET

A jury was seated Thursday in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers who were on the scene when fellow officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes and ultimately killed him.

A pool reporter in the courtroom said of the 10 women and eight men chosen for the jury, 16 appeared to be white and two appeared to be Asian.

Magnuson told the court the trial could last for about a month, NPR member station Minnesota Public Radio reported. Opening statements are expected Monday.

This week's trial is one of a series of legal consequences for the four ex-officers charged by federal and state authorities in Floyd's killing, which set off a wave of global protests over racial justice and police accountability after it occurred in May 2020.

Federal Judge Paul Magnuson told prospective jurors Thursday the federal case was complicated by the separate state court proceedings against Chauvin. However, jurors "have to decide this case based upon the evidence that is presented in this case, and the law as the court will instruct you in this case," he said.

Chauvin is white and Floyd was Black, and a video of the arrest showed Floyd lying face-down on the street and repeatedly saying "I can't breathe" as he became unresponsive. The footage captured the attention of the world and served as a key piece of evidence at Chauvin's state trial last year.

Outside the courthouse on Thursday, Floyd's partner Courteney Ross said she only recently watched the video of Floyd's death in its entirety.

The video, Ross said, reiterated her belief that all of the officers involved in Floyd's killing share equal responsibility.

"It reminded me of the length of time that they all had a moment to reach out for help. In fact, if they would have stepped one step back and got off his neck and his back and did nothing, they could have saved his life," Ross told MPR.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers – Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane – will now stand trial in federal court on charges that they violated Floyd's civil rights by failing to provide him with medical aid during the encounter. Thao and Kueng are also charged with failing to stop Chauvin's use of force.

"This trial is really unique and important because it does present the question of the duty of officers on what they didn't do, as opposed to reviewing actions themselves," Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, told MPR.

The Associated Press reported that Kueng knelt on Floyd's back and Lane held down his legs, while Thao kept bystanders at bay.

Chauvin isn't on trial with the other officers because last month he pleaded guilty to federal charges of depriving Floyd of his civil rights, resulting in Floyd's death.

A Minnesota jury found Chauvin guilty of Floyd's murder in a separate state trial in April 2021, and he is now serving a 22 1/2-year prison sentence.

The other three officers – Thao, Kueng and Lane – have also been brought up on state criminal charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter, but a Minnesota judge delayed that trial until after their federal case, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The state trial is expected to begin in June, MPR reported.

The Justice Department has also launched a separate civil investigation into possible patterns of discrimination and excessive force in the Minneapolis police department.


A version of this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.