Three former Minneapolis police officers charged over the death of George Floyd are set to stand trial this month.
Tou Thao, J. Kueng and Thomas Lane are set to appear in St. Paul courthouse for the federal trial after fellow former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty last year of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
All four officers were on the scene when Floyd was arrested and held to the ground in May 2020. Footage taken by bystanders showed Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck despite his repeated warnings that he couldn’t breathe.
Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for the murder of Floyd, while the remaining officers have been charged broadly with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority. A trial date of January 20 was confirmed in a docket filing this week after juror summons went out in November.
The federal trial this month comes ahead of another trial this spring, when Thao, Kueng and Lane will face separate state charges of aiding and abetting in Floyd’s death.
Judge Peter Cahill ruled last year that the state trial be pushed back to 2022 to allow the federal case to go ahead first, as well as to allow some distance between the trials of Chauvin and the three remaining officers, NPR reports.
According to evidence presented in the state case against Chauvin, cited by ABC News, Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd as he was on the ground. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs while Thao prevented onlookers from interrupting the proceedings.
Criminal defence attorney and former state lawmaker John Lesch, who is not connected with the case, believes the officers will be found guilty of depriving Floyd of his rights in the upcoming trial.
Speaking to Fox 9 News, he said: ‘If I am following the trend of the way the juries are going, I say a conviction on all counts. But again, juries are fickle groups. They can do whatever they want.’
Authorities are taking steps to enhance security at the courthouse after Floyd’s death sparked weeks of unrest in Minneapolis and worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, with crews spotted erecting security fences around the perimeter this week.
The St. Paul Police department has assured officers are committed to ensuring the safety of everyone involved in the proceedings, saying their focus is on ‘protecting people, property, and free speech’.
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