Federal trial delayed as one of the three ex-cops tests positive for COVID

J. Alexander Kueng, from left, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao
(From left) J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP 2020

The federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers was interrupted on Wednesday morning after the judge overseeing the case announced that one of the defendants had tested positive for COVID-19. The three are charged in federal court with violating George Floyd’s civil rights.

Judge Paul Magnuson said that court would resume on Monday at 9:30 a.m., according to a pool reporter in the courtroom.

The trial for Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng started with jury selection on Jan. 20 at the federal courthouse in downtown St. Paul. The courts could not confirm which defendant tested positive, but Lane was the only defendant absent from court proceedings Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege that all three officers failed to provide medical aid, when their colleague Derek Chauvin killed Floyd after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. Thao and Kueng are also accused of failing to intervene with Chauvin’s use of force.

Chauvin was convicted of murder in state court last spring and pleaded guilty to his own set of federal charges in December.

Magnuson told jurors at the start of the trial that he expected it to last for about a month. He seated a higher than usual number of alternate jurors as a precaution in case anyone involved in the trial got sick. The judge has also indicated that he wants the trial to proceed quickly due to the dangers of COVID, and has repeatedly admonished prosecutors for introducing evidence that he said was duplicative.

Prosecutors will still be making their case when court resumes next week. So far, they’ve called bystanders, first responders, a medical examiner and Minneapolis police training expert to the stand. Wednesday’s hearing was supposed to include testimony from an unnamed out-of-town medical expert, who prosecutors said was scheduled to fly in for the hearing.

The three defendants are also charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in state court. That trial is now scheduled for June. 

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