Trial of 3 former officers in Floyd killing resumes Monday after COVID pause

UPDATE: The federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s rights resumed Monday morning after a COVID-19 pause last week.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Reporter Eric Chaloux is providing live updates of Monday’s proceedings.

The federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s rights is expected to resume Monday, after it was abruptly suspended last week because one of the defendants tested positive for COVID-19.

Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with depriving Floyd of his civil rights in the 2020 arrest that resulted in his death. Kueng and Thao also face an additional charge of depriving Floyd of his civil rights for not helping Floyd. Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty in his federal case back in December.

Defense attorneys are trying to make the case that the officers’ training was inadequate and that the police department has a culture that teaches new officers to not question their superiors.

They have said that Chauvin, the most senior officer on the scene, took charge the day Floyd was killed.

The trial was in the middle of its second week when it was abruptly paused last Wednesday after one of the three defendants tested positive for COVID-19.

However, before the trial can continue, the defendant who tested positive will need to be re-tested, along with anyone who was considered in close proximity.

The defendant who tested positive wasn’t named, but Keung and Thao were in court that day, and Lane was not.

There are several COVID precautions in place in the federal courtroom, such as plexiglass dividers, each team being seated at their own table, and masks are required.

In addition, trial participants have to answer a COVID symptom questionnaire daily, and they are tested if they’ve been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive, or if they’re showing any symptoms.

“It’s the kind of delay that’s unusual generally, but not in a COVID environment,” said Tom Heffelfinger, a former U.S. Attorney. “Safety of the jurors and people in the courtroom are frankly more important right now than a schedule.”

The court said the judge and jurors are not considered close contacts because they were not within six feet of the attorney’s tables.

Legal experts say this kind of extended break in the trial could have an impact on the outcome.

“In general, this kind of delay is going to favor the defense because it’s going to mean the defense’s evidence is going to be presented more recently to the jury then they retire to the jury room, which means they’re more likely to focus on it and remember it,” said Mark Osler, a University of St. Thomas law professor.

Legal experts also say the delay could put more pressure on the prosecution to shorten their case, and potentially cut out witnesses.

The trial, which has been in recess since last Wednesday, is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday. However, that could change depending on what the judge decides.

Testimony began Jan. 24 after a jury was quickly selected in one day. Judge Paul Magnuson ordered the selection of six alternates instead of the usual two in case any jurors became ill and had to drop out.

KSTP’s complete George Floyd coverage

The Associated Press contributed to this report.