*

upload_article_image

Trial of 3 cops in Floyd killing to resume after COVID pause

The federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s rights is expected to resume Monday, after it was abruptly suspended last week because one of the defendants tested positive for COVID-19.

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are accused of depriving Floyd of his rights when they failed to give him medical aid as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, facedown and gasping for air. Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene in the May 2020 killing that triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.

The trial, which was in the middle of its second week, was halted Wednesday when Judge Paul Magnuson said one of the defendants had tested positive. The defendant wasn't named, but Kueng and Thao were in court that day and Lane was not. Lane's attorney declined to say whether his client had COVID-19.

FILE In this courtroom sketch, from left, former Minneapolis police Officer Tou Thao, attorney Robert Paule, attorney Natalie Paule, attorney Tom Plunkett, former Minneapolis police Officer J. Alexander Kueng, former Minneapolis police Officer Thomas Lane and attorney Earl Gray appear for opening statements for their trial in the killing of George Floyd in federal court on, Jan. 24, 2022, in St. Paul, Minn. Floyd died May 25, 2020, after Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck as Floyd, who was handcuffed, said he couldn't breathe. Judge Paul Magnuson abruptly recessed on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022 after one of the defendants tested positive for COVID-19. (Cedric Hohnstadt via AP, File)

That “trial participant” was to be tested again before the trial resumes, as will all other case participants who had been near that person. The court said Magnuson and the jurors aren’t considered close contacts because they weren't within 6 feet of the attorneys' tables.

Case participants have to answer questions about COVID-19 symptoms each morning before the trial begins. If any test positive, have been in close contact with someone who did, or begins having symptoms, a COVID-19 test is immediately given.

Testimony began Jan. 24 after a jury was quickly selected in one day. Magnuson ordered the selection of six alternates instead of the usual two in case any jurors became ill and had to drop out.

FILE - In this image from police body camera video shown as evidence in court, paramedics arrive as Minneapolis police officers, including Derick Chauvin, second from left, and J. Alexander Kueng restrain George Floyd in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020. Former police officers Tou Thao, Kueng and Thomas Lane are on trial in federal court accused of violating Floyd's civil rights as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin killed him. (Minneapolis Police Department via AP, File)

To ensure social distancing, Magnuson set limits on who can be in the courtroom. That includes allowing only four pool reporters plus a sketch artist, along with a limited number of family and friends of the officers and Floyd. Everyone entering the courtroom is asked about symptoms.

The general public and other journalists can watch a closed-circuit TV feed in separate rooms.

Masks are mandatory for most people in the courthouse, as they are in public buildings across St. Paul and neighboring Minneapolis. The judge made an exception for himself, citing a chronic lung condition, and for witnesses when testifying so their voices aren't muffled.

FILE - This image from surveillance video introduced into evidence during court 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. Former police officers Tou Thao, Kueng and Lane are on trial in federal court accused of violating Floyd's civil rights as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin killed him. (Surveillance VideoState of Minnesota via AP, File)

Most other federal court proceedings in Minnesota are being conducted by video or teleconference due to the pandemic, while state courts are using a mix of in-person and remote proceedings.

Testimony so far has come from the government's witnesses, with defense attorneys expected to call witnesses later. Lane's attorney has said his client will testify, but it's not known if the other officers will.

Floyd, 46, struggled with the officers when they tried to force him into a police vehicle and after they put him on the ground. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.

FILE - In this image from police body camera video shown as evidence in court, Minneapolis police Officers Thomas Lane, left, and J. Alexander Kueng, second from right, gather information as they take George Floyd into custody outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020. Former police Officers Tou Thao, Kueng and Lane are on trial in federal court accused of violating Floyd's civil rights as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin killed him. (Minneapolis Police Department via AP, File)

Kueng, who is Black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. One count against all three officers alleges that they saw that Floyd needed medical care and failed to help. A count against Thao and Kueng contends that they didn't intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge. He remains in prison. Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter. All three have been free on bail since shortly after they were charged in June 2020.

Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.

FILE - In this image from police body camera video shown as evidence in court, Minneapolis police officers attempt to place George Floyd in a police vehicle, on May 25, 2020, outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis. Former police Officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are on trial in federal court accused of violating Floyd's civil rights as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin killed him. (Minneapolis Police Department via AP, File)

Find AP’s full coverage of the killing of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd