Jury seated in federal trial of 3 former cops accused in George Floyd's death

Opening statements in the case are expected to occur Monday.

January 20, 2022, 7:11 PM

Opening statements in the joint federal trial of three former police officers accused of civil rights violations in the death of George Floyd are expected to begin next week after a jury was seated on Thursday.

Fired Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, 28, Thomas Lane, 38, and Tou Thao, 35, are set to fight charges stemming from their alleged roles in the 2020 death of the 46-year-old Black man who their one-time senior officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murdering.

All three are charged with using the "color of the law," or their positions as police officers, to deprive Floyd of his civil rights on May 25, 2020, by allegedly showing deliberate indifference to his medical needs as Chauvin dug his knee in the back of a handcuffed man's neck for more than 9 minutes, ultimately killing him.

Kueng and Thao both face an additional charge alleging they knew Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd's neck but did nothing to intervene to stop him. Lane, who was heard on police body camera footage asking if they should roll Floyd on his side to help ease his breathing, does not face that charge.

PHOTO: This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota shows from left, former Minneapolis police Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota shows from left, former Minneapolis police Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, FILE

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The 18-member jury, including six alternates, was impaneled in just one day, chosen from a pool of 256 potential jurors. The jury is comprised of 11 women and seven men, none of whom are Black.

The trial, expected to last at least two weeks, is being held at the Warren E. Burger Federal Building in St. Paul. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson, who is presiding over the case, has instructed attorneys that he wants the trial to move quickly to lessen the possibility of people involved in the proceedings coming down with COVID-19 as the omicron variant continues to spread across the country.

The trial will commence a little over a month after Chauvin, 45, a former Minneapolis police officer, pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges stemming from Floyd's death and the abuse of a 14-year-old boy he bashed in the head with a flashlight in 2017. He admitted in the signed plea agreement with federal prosecutors that he knelt on the back of Floyd's neck even as Floyd complained he could not breathe, fell unconscious and lost a pulse.

PHOTO: A community activist holds a placard during press conference outside the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 20, 2022, for the jury selection of former police officers charged with federal civil rights violations in George Floyd's death
A community activist holds a placard during press conference outside the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 20, 2022, for the jury selection of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with federal civil rights violations in George Floyd's death.
Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

The guilty plea came after Chauvin was convicted in Minnesota state court in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison in the state case and is facing an even stiffer sentence in the federal case.

Kueng and Lane were rookies being trained by Chauvin at the time of Floyd's fatal arrest.

The May 25, 2020, police encounter with Floyd was recorded on video from start to finish and included multiple angles taken by bystanders with cellphones, police body cameras and surveillance cameras.

The footage showed Chauvin grinding his knee into the back of Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds while Kueng helped keep Floyd down even after he stopped resisting by placing his knee on the man's back and holding and lifting one of his handcuffed hands. Lane, according to the videos, held down Floyd's feet.

PHOTO: Fencing and barricades surround the perimeter of the Warren E. Burger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on Jan. 20, 2022, in St Paul, Minn.
Fencing and barricades surround the perimeter of the Warren E. Burger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on Jan. 20, 2022, in St Paul, Minn.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Thao, according to footage, stood a few feet away, ordering a crowd to stand back despite several witnesses, including an off-duty firefighter, expressing concern for Floyd's well-being.

Following the federal trial, Lane, Keung and Thao are facing a state trial on charges arising from Floyd's death of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The state trial, which had been scheduled to get underway in March, was postponed until June 13 due to uncertainty over how long the federal trial will last.

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the state charges.

ABC News' Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.

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