Defendant in federal trial of ex-MPD officers contracts COVID, trial in recess until Monday

One of the defendants in the federal trial of three former MPD officers has tested positive for COVID-19.  So, instead of the prosecution’s 12th witness taking the stand, court was called off until Monday.

Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with violating George Floyd’s constitutional rights by failing to provide medical aid when Floyd lost consciousness while held by Derek Chauvin, who had his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Thao and Kueng are also charged with failing to intervene in Chauvin’s use of force. Lane is not. Lane had twice asked to move Floyd onto his side, but Chauvin said no.

In court Wednesday morning, both Thao and Kueng were in the courtroom with their attorneys.  Thomas Lane was not there, though his attorney was.  We’ve not been told which of the three tested positive for COVID, but Lane’s absence was notable.

This is another disruption in a trial that Judge Paul Magnuson was trying to keep moving.  On Tuesday afternoon, testimony ended two hours early because the prosecution did not have a witness ready to go.  One of their planned witnesses was ill and prosecutors were unable to get another in to take his place.

Magnuson was clearly irritated about that situation, telling federal prosecutors that "you have many, many witnesses on your list" and with a long trial "we just can’t afford to be down any more than we have to."

Testimony was set to resume Wednesday morning with an out-of-state expert, who was not in town yet on Tuesday to take the stand.

Judge Magnuson has been very clear he wants to keep the trial moving quickly, precisely because he worries about a COVID disruption, especially among the jury.  He warned attorneys repeatedly to not have repetitive witnesses or testimony.

The jury, with six alternates to be prepared for COVID problems, is separated by plexiglass. They are also kept far apart from others in the courtroom.  But the three defendants and their attorneys, four in total, are fairly close together on the left side of the courtroom.  Certainly there’s concern this could affect another defendant or attorneys.

Court is set to resume Monday morning at 9:30.