Trial of three former MPD officers pushes forward during COVID surge

The judge overseeing the trial wants proceedings to move quickly as to avoid pandemic-related disruptions

A courtroom sketch of the three former MPD officers and their lawyers.
In this courtroom sketch, three former Minneapolis officers, Tou Thao, J. Kueng and Thomas Lane, charged in the death of George Floyd appear in federal court on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in St. Paul, Minn.
Cedric Hohnstadt for MPR News

The federal court judge overseeing the trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged in the killing of George Floyd in 2020 said he’s concerned about COVID disrupting the proceedings. 

On Tuesday Judge Paul Magnuson told lawyers representing Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng that they will select six alternate jurors during the selection process, which is scheduled to start next week. He told the parties he wants the trial to move quickly to avoid the possibility of jurors getting sick. 

If they don’t have 12 jurors there, “We all go home,” said Magnuson. 

During the hearing Magnuson also made rulings on several pretrial motions. Magnuson decided he will not allow the testimony of a young girl who witnessed the killing of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin. The girl had testified during Chauvin’s state trial which ended in Chauvin’s conviction on murder charges. Magnuson said he would not forbid that child’s cousin, 16-year-old Darnella Frazier, to testify. Frazier recorded Floyd’s final minutes on her cellphone. The video was seen around the world, and Frazier received many civilian awards for her actions.

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Magnuson also granted a defense motion that an off-duty firefighter who happened upon the scene of Floyd’s death could not testify in her official uniform, since she was not there in her official capacity. Genevieve Hansen testified in Chauvin’s state trial that she urged Chauvin and the other three officers to get off George Floyd as he struggled to breathe.

Thomas Plunkett, Robert Paule and Earl Gray are representing the three defendants, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane, respectively. Gray recently represented former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter, who was convicted last month in state court of manslaughter in Daunte Wright's death. Plunkett represented former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was convicted in the 2017 killing of Justine Ruszczyk.

Unlike the Chauvin and Potter trials, this trial will not be livestreamed because broadcasting federal court proceedings is prohibited.

Thao, Lane and Kueng are all facing criminal civil rights charges that they failed to prevent Chauvin from violating Floyd’s civil rights. 

Jury selection begins Jan. 20.