The federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s rights was abruptly suspended Wednesday after one of the defendants tested positive for COVID-19.
Judge Paul Magnuson said the trial won’t resume until Monday.
The officer who tested positive wasn’t named by the court, but reporters in the courtroom said J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were there and Thomas Lane was not. Lane’s attorney declined to say whether his client had COVID-19.
Lane, Kueng and Thao are accused of depriving Floyd of his rights when they failed to give him medical aid as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, facedown and gasping for air. Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene.
The May 2020 videotaped killing triggered protests worldwide and a re-examination of racism and policing.
Testimony in the trial began last week after a jury was quickly selected on Jan. 20.
Prosecutors had said they planned to call a doctor to the stand Wednesday, though they did not publicly share the physician’s name.
Testimony this week included that of Dr. Andrew Baker – the chief medical examiner for Hennepin County who deemed Floyd’s death a homicide. He testified Tuesday that he initially told prosecutors after Floyd’s autopsy that there was no physical evidence that he died from insufficient oxygen, and that he later added “neck compression” as a factor, but said he wasn’t pressured to do so.
Baker said Floyd died after police “subdual, restraint and neck compression” caused his heart and lungs to stop. He said heart disease and drug use were factors but not the “top line” causes. He said Floyd had an enlarged heart that needed more oxygen than normal, as well as narrowed arteries.
Floyd, 46, struggled with officers when they tried to put him in the vehicle and after they put him on the ground. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.
Kueng, who is Black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are charged with wilfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. One count against all three officers alleges that they saw that Floyd needed medical care and failed to help. A count against Thao and Kueng contends that they didn’t intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge. Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
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