ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The trial of three former Minneapolis police officers began Monday in federal court in St. Paul. Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are accused of violating Floyd’s civil rights. At least one of them, Lane, plans to testify, his attorney told the court.

A fourth former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pleaded guilty to the federal charges last month. He is currently serving a 22-and-a-half-year sentence after being convicted in Hennepin County for murdering Floyd when he knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes outside a south Minneapolis convenience store.

In opening statements, the three defense teams for the other former officers said that Chauvin alone violated Floyd’s civil rights. The prosecution, on the other hand, said that Thao, Lane and Keung “didn’t lift a finger” when Floyd said he couldn’t breathe, adding that they ignored their training and bystanders’ complaints.

Prosecutor Samantha Trepel argued that it was the officers’ constitutional and legal responsibility to help Floyd. “In your custody is in your care,” she said.

“Each made a conscious choice not to act, not to intervene, not to stop Derek Chauvin as he killed a man,” Trepel added.

Samantha Trepel. (credit: Cedric Hohnstadt)

Thomas Plunkett, the attorney for Kueng, argued that Chauvin “called all the shots” on May 25, 2020. He also took aim at former Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, saying that while he wrote the department’s policy on an officer’s duty to intervene, these former officers — two of which (Lane and Kueng) were rookies — never received in-depth training on how to stop an officer engaged in wrongdoing.

Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, said Floyd’s death was a tragic incident, but that the viral video did not tell the entire story. He mentioned the counterfeit bill that originally prompted a police response, as well as the drugs found in Floyd’s vehicle.

Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, called the case against his client a “perversion of justice.” He said that Lane asked twice if they should put Floyd on his side as Chauvin was pinning him to the ground. He added that Lane wanted to go into the ambulance with Floyd, saying that this showed there was no “deliberate indifference.”

“If ever the government has failed miserably to prove deliberate indifference, this is the case,” Gray said.

The lawyers for each of the former officers stressed that prosecutors will have to show that Thao, Lane and Kueng “willfully” deprived Floyd of his constitutional rights.

Relatives of Floyd were in the courtroom for opening statements. They included his brother, Philonise Floyd, his nephew, Brandon Williams, and his former Minneapolis girlfriend, Courtney Ross.

“They are just as responsible as Chauvin,” Ross told WCCO, referring to the three former officers.

Following opening statements, the prosecution called their first witness, Kimberly Meline, who works with video evidence for the FBI. Late Monday afternoon, the jury was shown video from Lane’s body-worn camera. The footage showed Lane and Kueng arriving at Cup Foods on 36th and Chicago in south Minneapolis, approaching the SUV that Floyd was inside.

“Don’t shoot me,” Floyd says in the footage, speaking with Lane and Keung. The officers handcuff him, take him across the street and try to get him into the squad car. After Chauvin arrives at the scene, they put Floyd in the prone position and Floyd tells the officers that he can’t breathe. Meanwhile, bystanders can be heard yelling at the officers.

Lane’s body-cam footage ends with him inside the ambulance, assisting emergency responders in their attempts to treat Floyd. Meline’s testimony is expected to continue Tuesday morning. More police body-camera footage and bystander video is expected to be played in court, as was the in Chauvin’s murder trial

Jury selection in the fedearl trial took just a single day last week. The 12 jurors and six alternates were selected from a pool of nearly 70 Minnesotans. Those who will decide the case include seven women and five men. Most of the jurors appear to be white, although demographic information about the jurors has not been released by the court.

Thao, Lane and Kueng are also set to stand trial in Hennepin County for aiding and abetting Chauvin in murdering Floyd. That trial is slated for June.