The first day of the federal civil rights trial of former Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, who help who helped Derek Chauvin restrain George Floyd in May 2020, began with opening statements followed by prosecutors calling FBI Agent Kimberly Meline as the first witness to testify in the trial.
Meline's direct testimony regarding video evidence is expected to continue tomorrow morning when court resumes at 10:30 a.m. ET.
In today's opening statements:
- Federal prosecutor spoke for about 30 minutes, saying the three ex-officers committed federal crimes when they ignored Floyd's repeated pleas of "I can't breathe." "Each made a conscious choice over and over again," said Samantha Trepel, special litigation counsel from the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. "They chose not to intervene and stop Chauvin as he killed a man. They chose not to protect George Floyd, the man they handcuffed."
- The defendants' attorneys each spoke for about 35 minutes, making many of the same arguments that Chauvin did in his state murder trial. They argued that Floyd was on drugs and resisting arrest, that the officers had insufficient training and that there was more to the story than the viral bystander video showed. "The fact that something ends tragically does not mean a crime has been committed," Thao's attorney Robert Paule said.
Attorney Earl Gray, who represents former officer Lane, said the rookie officer who held down Floyd's legs during the fatal restraint, plans to take the stand during the trial.
The three have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges and are being tried together. They also face state charges in Floyd's death, and that trial is set to begin on June 13.