Here are the key players in the trial of the ex-cops accused of the murder of George Floyd

Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of two former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd. Both J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thou are charged with aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter.

Floyd, who was black, died on May 25, 2020, after another former officer, Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back during the arrest, and Tu restrained bystanders. Another officer, Thomas Lane, pleaded guilty to a state charge and is not facing trial.

Among the key figures of the trial:

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The judge

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill handled Chauvin’s trial and is back on the bench for this one. Cahill started in the county public defender’s office in 1984 and worked for 10 years as a prosecutor, serving as a senior adviser to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar when she was the county’s chief prosecutor.

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Cahill, a judge since 2007, is known for being decisive and direct. He allowed Chauvin’s trial to be broadcast live due to overwhelming public interest and COVID-19 limitations, recently telling a national court conference that he believed if he hadn’t , the result « would never be accepted by the community ».

But cameras aren’t generally allowed in Minnesota courtrooms, and with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, it isn’t allowing live streaming this time.

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Attorney General Keith Ellison led Chauvin’s prosecution at the behest of Governor Tim Walz, after community civil rights advocates said Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman did not have the trust of the black community.

Ellison, the state’s first elected African-American attorney general, previously served in Congress and worked as a defense attorney. He appeared in court at times during Chauvin’s trial, but was not part of the trial team.

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Matthew Frank and Steven Schleicher, who both helped convict Chauvin, are back to lead this team. Frank is an experienced attorney who also won a guilty plea in the case of Lois Riess, a Minnesota woman who rose to fame for killing her husband in 2018, then killing a woman in Florida and assuming her identity before she not be captured.

Schleicher is a former federal prosecutor who led the prosecution of the man who admitted to the 1989 kidnapping and murder of Jacob Wetterling, whose initial disappearance helped inspire a 1994 federal law requiring states to establish records sex offenders.

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Kueng, who is black, was the youngest of four officers at the scene and a rookie, just days on the job. His personal file, which indicates that he speaks, reads and writes Russian, does not mention any disciplinary action. At his federal trial, he testified that he deferred to Chauvin because Chauvin was his commanding officer and that’s what he was trained to do.

His attorney, Tom Plunkett, represented another former Minneapolis police officer in a high-profile case. Mohamed Noor was convicted in the fatal 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault.

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Thao, who is Hmong American, was Chauvin’s partner on the day of Floyd’s murder and an eight-year veteran. City records showed six complaints against Thao, and he faced a federal lawsuit in 2017 accusing him and another officer of excessive force.

During his federal trial, Thao testified that on the day of Floyd’s arrest, he served as a « human traffic cone » to direct traffic away from other officers. He said his role was to control crowds and he assumed Floyd was breathing.

His lawyer, Bob Paule, was a public defender before starting his own firm. His website says he got a rare not-guilty verdict for a murder defendant via a mental illness defense. He also said he was part of a team that had 23 murder charges dismissed in a separate case, after challenging that prosecutors acted with misconduct in grand jury proceedings.

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George Floyd

Floyd, 46, moved to Minneapolis from Houston several years before his death hoping to find work, but had lost his job as a restaurant bouncer due to COVID-19. On May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis grocery store employee called police saying Floyd had attempted to smuggle a counterfeit $20 bill.

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His girlfriend, Courteney Ross, testified tearfully at Chauvin’s trial that she met Floyd in 2017 at a Salvation Army shelter, and that she and Floyd both battled opioid addiction. She said he overdosed in March 2020 but then went clean for many weeks. She said she suspected he had started using again about two weeks before his death because his behavior had changed. She said she and Floyd « really tried to break that addiction many times. »

One of Floyd’s brothers, Philonise Floyd, testified at Chauvin’s trial that George Floyd was a leader in the family and that they grew up poor in Houston’s Third Ward.

« He used to make the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches, » Philonise Floyd recalled, saying, « George couldn’t cook. He couldn’t boil water.

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The Jury

A jury of 16 Hennepin County residents will be chosen to hear evidence, and 12 will ultimately deliberate. Their names will remain confidential until further court order. Hundreds of jurors were summoned and sent in a 17-page questionnaire to gauge their experiences and thoughts on issues such as civil rights, policing and their overall trust in officers.


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