George Floyd: Federal trial put on hold after former officer tests positive for Covid

Three former officers are accused of violating George Floyd’s civil rights during his murder on Memorial Day 2020

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 02 February 2022 19:22 GMT
Lawyer explains why Thomas Lane not charged with second count in George Floyd trial
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Louise Thomas

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The federal trial for the three former police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights has been put on hold after one of the defendants tested positive for Covid-19.

US District Judge Paul Magnuson announced on Wednesday morning that he was postponing the trial until at least Monday following the diagnosis.

The judge did not reveal which of the three former Minneapolis police officers - Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane - had contracted the virus but Mr Lane was absent from the courtroom that morning.

The other two defendants were present for the announcement. It is also unclear if the officer is showing symptoms.The Independent has contacted Mr Lane’s attorney Earl Gray for comment.

Mr Kueng, Mr Lane and Mr Thao are currently on trial on federal charges of violating Mr Floyd’s civil rights by failing to provide him with medical care and by failing to intervene to stop Derek Chauvin’s use of force during his murder on Memorial Day 2020.

White officer Chauvin knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds during an arrest over a suspected $20 counterfeit bill, as the Black man begged for air saying “I can’t breathe”.

Footage of the encounter sent shockwaves across the globe and led to nationwide and international protests calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality against Black people.

The video shows Mr Kueng was kneeling on Mr Floyd’s back, while Mr Lane held down his legs.

Mr Thao was holding back bystanders and stopping them from intervening.

All three are charged with one count of depriving Mr Floyd of his civil rights by failing to provide him with medical care and showing a “deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs” during the fatal arrest.

Mr Thao and Mr Kueng are also charged with one count of depriving Mr Floyd of his civil rights by failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force.

Mr Lane is believed to have not been charged with this count because video shows he twice asked Chauvin if they should move Mr Floyd to another position. Chauvin said no.

Both counts allege the officers’ actions resulted in Mr Floyd’s death.

They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The defence argues that Chauvin is solely to blame for Mr Floyd’s death and that Mr Kueng and Mr Lane, who were both just a few days into the job, were following the instruction of the senior officer.

George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day 2020
George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day 2020 (AP)

The trial’s disruption to a Covid-19 case comes despite efforts from the court to limit possible exposure.

Judge Magnuson made it clear from the get-go he wanted a speedy trial in an effort to prevent an outbreak and limited the number of media and attendees in the courtroom.

The judge also took just one day to select an almost all-white jury to hear the racially-charged case.

At Chauvin’s state trial last April, jury selection lasted more than two weeks.

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and is currently behind bars in Minnesota’s maximum security state prison.

He had been due to stand trial with the trio on federal charges but reached a plea deal with prosecutors back in December, pleading guilty in exchange for a move to a comfier federal prison.

Mr Thao, Mr Kueng and Mr Lane are also due to stand trial on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in June.

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