On January 24, opening statements began for the trial of former Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng. They each face charges related to depriving George Floyd, 46, of his rights while exercising the authority of a government agency. The defense’s strategy appears to be to place the totality of the blame on Derek Chauvin.
According to the Associated Press, one defense attorney said during opening statements that Chauvin, who was the senior officer at the scene “slowly killed George Floyd right in front of them” and called “all of the shots.” Another attorney for the third officer said his client raised concerns about the restraint of Floyd, but was rebuffed.
The officers are each represented by different attorneys. Tom Plunkett represents Kueng, who was the only Black officer on the scene. He told the court, “You’ll see and hear officer Chauvin call all of the shots.”
Earl Gray, the attorney for Thomas Lane argued, “Mr. Lane, from the beginning of the time that he came into contact with George Floyd until the time he walked out of that ambulance, he was totally concerned and did everything he could possibly do to help George Floyd.”
However, prosecutor Samantha Trepel, who works for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, stated to the court, “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. They chose not to protect George Floyd, the man they had handcuffed and placed in their custody.”
Kueng, Lane and Thao are charged with failing to provide Floyd with medical care. Thao and Kueng are also charged with failing to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege the officers’ actions resulted in the death of George Floyd.
The Associated Press reports, 18 people were chosen for the jury, 12 will deliberate and six are alternates. The court would not reveal the racial makeup of the jury but the outlet reports who appear to be of Asian descent and the others all appear to be white.
On May 25, 2020, during an attempt to arrest Floyd, officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground under his knee for more than nine minutes, while Keung, Lane and Thao blocked bystanders from helping Floyd.
A jury convicted Chauvin in state court last year for murdering Floyd. He later pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Floyd’s civil rights. Chauvin is serving 22 1⁄2 years in prison in the state case, but he has not been sentenced yet in the federal case.