Opening statements began on Monday, in the federal civil rights trial of the three lesser-known police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd.
Now-ex officers Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are on trial in court in St Paul, the state capital of Minnesota – after white former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, and admitted violating his civil rights in May 2020, sparking the largest racial reckoning in America’s recent history.
Federal prosecutor Samantha Trepel, from the US Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said Thao, 35, Lane, 38, and Kueng, 27, had broken their oath with a callous indifference to Floyd. She recounted that video had captured how Kueng at times seemed more preoccupied with some gravel lodged in the tire of the nearby police car than the man pinned beneath him repeatedly saying: “I can’t breathe.”
The three have pleaded not guilty in both their civil rights case and their state case, which is due later this year and in which they are accused of aiding and abetting murder.
In the current trial they are accused of depriving George Floyd of his right “to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs”, according to the charges.
Thao and Kueng are also accused of willfully failing to “intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force” when Floyd was unresponsive on the ground.
“Today is another milestone in the long, slow journey to justice for George Floyd,” Ben Crump, the civil rights lawyer who represented his relatives, said in a statement: “This trial will be another painful experience for the Floyd family, who must once more relive his grueling death in excruciating detail.”
A wide radius of security fences, tight police patrolling and road closures are in operation outside the federal courthouse amid concerns of mass protest.
Floyd’s murder ignited huge demonstrations across America and in many other countries, as the US Black Lives Matter movement revived and spread, although some of the protests against police brutality and entrenched racism more widely were often harshly curtailed by the police.
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