Trial Begins For Three Officers Involved In George Floyd's Death

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Damir Mujezinovic

In May 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality, reigniting the Black Lives Matter movement.

In April 2021, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, and sentenced to over 20 years in prison.

Three other officers were present at the scene that day: Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Their trial began this week, with prosecutors and defense delivering their opening statements.

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The three now-former police officers are facing federal civil rights charges. Thao and Kueng also stand accused of failing to intervene with Chauvin's treatment of George Floyd, as reported by NPR.

The jury in the case -- which consists of 10 women and eight men -- was seated on Thursday, and will be sworn in by United States District Judge Paul Magnuson on Monday morning.

According to reports, 16 of the jurors are white, and two seem to be of Asian descent.

Crime

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Prosecution

Federal prosecutor Samantha Trepel told the jury that the officers had a "duty," as well as a "moral responsibility" to intervene as Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck for over nine minutes, killing him.

"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," Trepel said, per The Washington Post.

Chauvin, she said, "crushed the life" out of Floyd, while the three officers stood by and did nothing to stop him.

Failure To Act

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Members of the jury were presented with still images of the officers at the scene of Floyd's murder. The pictures showed Kueng and Lane positioned at Floyd’s back and legs, and Thao standing next to Chauvin.

According to Trepel, the three officers made a "conscious choice not to act," ignoring their training and pleas from bystanders.

"For 9 minutes and 29 seconds, the three defendants didn’t lift a finger as Mr. Floyd repeatedly told them, 'I can’t breathe'... They watched as Mr. Floyd suffered a slow and agonizing death," Trepel said.

Defense

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Defense attorneys did their best to place the blame on Chauvin, arguing that their clients were inexperienced and simply took orders from a senior officer.

Kueng's attorney Thomas Plunkett said that Chauvin was "clearly in charge," while his client "was thrust into these events with inadequate training."

"The fact that Mr. Floyd lost his life under these circumstances is a tragedy, but that doesn’t mean that Mr. Thao committed a crime," said Robert Paule, an attorney for Thao.

Lane's attorney Earl Gray, meanwhile, said his client "was totally concerned and did everything he could possibly do to help George Floyd."

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