Jury selection begins in US trial of officers involved in George Floyd arrest
Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office)

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin is serving 22 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American.

Now the other three ex-police officers on the scene are going on trial for their actions that day -- or rather their failure to take action.

Jury selection began Thursday in the federal trial of Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, accused of violating Floyd's civil rights.

Chauvin was convicted of murder in a state trial and pleaded guilty last month to federal charges of using excessive force during Floyd's May 25, 2020 arrest for allegedly using a fake $20 to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Floyd's death, which was filmed by a bystander on a cellphone, set off months of protests in the United States against racial injustice and police brutality.

Chauvin kept his knee on the handcuffed Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes, while Kueng was on his back and Lane held his legs.

Thao kept back bystanders who were pleading with Chauvin to get off the neck of a visibly distressed Floyd, who eventually passed out and died.

Chauvin was an 18-year-old veteran of the Minneapolis police force; Thao had served for eight years while Kueng and Lane were new recruits, having joined the department in December 2019.

Thao, Kueng and Lane are to face Minnesota state charges in connection with Floyd's death in a trial scheduled to begin on June 13.

But in a sign of the importance of the case, federal prosecutors also filed charges against them.

The indictment charges Thao, Kueng and Lane with showing "deliberate indifference to (Floyd's) serious medical needs."

Thao and Kueng also "willfully failed to intervene" to stop Chauvin's "use of unreasonable force" against Floyd, according to the indictment.

Lane does not face the second charge. Video of the arrest shows that on two occasions during Floyd's arrest, Lane suggested that he be rolled over on his side.

Not guilty pleas

The federal trial is being held in a heavily guarded courtroom in Saint Paul, the sister city to Minneapolis.

All three men have pleaded not guilty.

Lawyers for Kueng and Lane are expected to argue during the trial that the men were not in a position to challenge the authority of Chauvin, the senior officer on the scene.

Thao's attorney is expected to claim that his client's attention was focused on keeping back the onlookers, and he was not aware of Floyd's condition.

The judge hearing the case has set aside two days for jury selection. The trial, which is expected to last at least two weeks, could start on Monday.

Unlike Chauvin's state trial, the federal trial is not being televised.

© 2022 AFP