By Brad Parks
The upcoming state trial for former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng for their alleged role in George Floyd’s killing has been moved to January 2023, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill ruled Monday.
Jury selection in the trial for Thao and Kueng, charged with aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, had been scheduled to begin next week. The two former officers have pleaded not guilty.
A third former officer, Thomas Lane, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter last month as part of a plea deal. He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 21, according to the court.
“These two events and the publicity surrounding them are significant in that they could make it difficult for jurors to presume Thao and Kueng innocent of the State charges,” Cahill wrote.
The judge also denied a request from defense attorneys for a change of venue in the ruling. Jury selection in the state trial for Thao and Kueng is now slated to begin January 9 with opening statements January 30.
The charges stem from the former officers’ actions — or lack thereof — as their colleague Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck and back of Floyd, who was handcuffed and lying on his stomach, for over nine minutes on May 25, 2020.
Chauvin was convicted last spring of Floyd’s murder in a state trial and was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. He also pleaded guilty in federal court in December to violating Floyd’s civil rights, and he will be sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison.
During the arrest, Lane held down Floyd’s legs, Kueng held down Floyd’s torso, and Thao stood nearby and kept a crowd of upset bystanders back. Harrowing video taken by a bystander showed Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, desperately pleading for them to let him breathe and calling for his mother before he lost consciousness and died.
Thao, Kueng and Lane were already convicted in a federal court in February of violating Floyd’s civil rights. A sentencing date has not been set in that case.
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