Civil trial in Floyd case on pace for January jury selection

FILE - This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, shows Minneapolis Police Officers Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.(Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
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Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The federal civil rights trial of the four former Minneapolis police officers indicted in the killing of George Floyd is on track to begin in January, according to a judge’s letter.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson earlier this month mailed out jury questionnaires ordering prospective jurors in the case to report to the courthouse on Jan. 20. The trial of Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane will run through mid-February, according to a copy of the summons packet obtained by the Star Tribune.

A federal grand jury in May indicted Chauvin, Lane, Kueng and Thao for allegedly depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority. The 46-year-old Floyd was held face-down, handcuffed and not resisting in a restraint. The arrest was captured on bystander video and sparked protests in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.

Chauvin was convicted in state court in April of murder and manslaughter.

Some issues are still lingering ahead of the trial, including a magistrate judge’s ruling that the four officers should be tried together. Attorneys for Kueng, Thao and Lane have argued that Chauvin, already found guilty, should be tried separately in order to ensure a fair trial for the other three former officers. The trio could still ask Magnuson for an independent ruling.

Magnuson’s jury questionnaire is the first step in trying to find people who haven’t already made up their minds about the officers. The judge said in his letter that he and the attorneys need to ask probing questions because of the nature of the trial.

“We do this not because we wish to pry into the private lives of prospective jurors, but because we are obligated to ensure that the jurors who hear the case will be fair and impartial,” Magnuson wrote.

Kueng, Thao and Lane face state trial next March on aiding and abetting counts. Chauvin is also charged in a separate federal indictment alleging he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.