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Prosecutors: Video Will Show 3 Cops Violated Floyd’s Rights

January 25, 2022

ST. PAUL, Minn — Prosecutors played videos from the scene of George Floyd’s arrest Tuesday at the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating Floyd’s civil rights as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin killed him.

Prosecutors in the federal trial of former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao told U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson that they did not plan to play all of the video evidence in court, but want it available to the jury when they deliberate.

Much of the footage shown Tuesday was from police body cameras and street surveillance video that also was played extensively in the state criminal trial that eventually convicted Chauvin of murder last year. It shows Floyd struggling with officers as they try to put him in a police vehicle, him being held on the ground and later into an ambulance, and a growing group of onlookers who become increasingly frantic as Floyd stops moving.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are broadly charged with depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority. Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old Black man was facedown, handcuffed and gasping for air. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back. The killing triggered worldwide protests and a reexamination of racism and policing.

Other than introducing the content of the videos, there was no testimony as the videos were played; prosecutors said they were playing videos to orient the jury to them. They said they plan to go through the videos more thoroughly later with other witnesses. Courtney Ross, Floyd’s girlfriend, was in the courtroom and dabbed her eyes at times. At least one juror also appeared to be dabbing her eyes.

FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on June 3, 2020, shows, from left, former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. A state court trial for three former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd has been rescheduled for June 13, 2022, after both the defense and prosecutors requested a postponement. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

During opening statements Monday, prosecutor Samantha Trepel, who works for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that the videos will show the three officers stood by as Chauvin “slowly killed George Floyd right in front of them” and told jurors that prosecutors “will ask you to hold these men accountable.”

But it was Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, who called “all of the shots,” Tom Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney, said, adding that the Minneapolis Police Department did too little to train officers to intervene when a colleague should be stopped.

Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, focused on Floyd’s struggle with police before they restrained him. And an attorney for Lane, Earl Gray, said his client raised concerns about the restraint of Floyd, but was rebuffed.

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, who is white. Both counts allege the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Attorneys for both Kueng and Thao noted that prosecutors must prove the officers willfully violated Floyd’s constitutional rights — a high legal standard that essentially requires prosecutors to prove the officers knew what they were doing was wrong, but did it anyway.

Gray told jurors that Lane will testify, but it’s not known if Thao or Kueng will.

Chauvin pleaded guilty in November to a federal count of violating Floyd’s civil rights. It’s not clear whether he will testify at his fellow officers’ federal trial, though many experts who spoke to The Associated Press believe he won’t.

Magnuson has said the trial could last four weeks.

Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges they aided and abetted both murder and manslaughter.

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