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Jury seated in federal trial of three former Minneapolis officers

J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are all charged with violating the rights of George Floyd on the day he was killed in May 2020.

ST PAUL, Minn. — It took just one day to seat a jury in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights in May 2020.

The jury will consist of 12 members, with six alternates, made up of people from across the state of Minnesota.

Of the 12 jurors, seven of them are women and five are men. Of the alternates, three are men and three are women. 

The jury is made up of three men from Hennepin County, two women from Washington County, a man and a woman from Ramsey County, a woman from Anoka County, a man from Olmsted County, a woman from Blue Earth County, a woman from Jackson County and a woman from Scott County. The alternates are two men from Ramsey County, one man from Hennepin County, a woman from Anoka County, a woman from Nicollet County and a woman from Olmsted County.

According to KARE 11’s Lou Raguse, a hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday to handle the details of the trial with opening statements starting no earlier than Monday.

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are charged with depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority, as fellow officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck, causing his death.

The jury selection process is different than in state court. Judge Paul Magnuson, who will be presiding over the trial, began with a panel of 30 potential jurors who were brought in to be questioned by him. Both prosecuting and defense attorneys had to pass questions to Judge Magnuson to ask, but were not allowed to interact with jury candidates themselves. 

A second panel of 26 potential jurors were then questioned. After the second group, the court had reached its goal of 40 potential panelists who were passed for cause. Then prosecutors and the defense team used their strikes to whittle the number down to the 18 people needed to hear the case.

Judge Paul Magnuson is described by Raguse as folksy and jovial, laughing along with potential jurors at lighter moments, but also "all business" when it comes to matters of the law and courtroom proceedings. 

Calling the start of the federal trial of Lane, Keung and Tao "another milestone in the long, slow journey to justice," attorney Ben Crump noted that the proceedings will be another painful chapter for the family of George Floyd, who will again relive his death in microscopic detail. 

"On behalf of the legal team and the family, we trust and expect that an impartial jury representative of the community will be seated to do this important work,” Crump said in a written statement.

RELATED: St. Paul prepares to host federal trial for three former Minneapolis officers

From the outside, the trial will look fairly similar to Derek Chauvin's Minneapolis trial last year: the federal courthouse is ringed with chain link fences, and officers will be standing by on security duty. cording to one legal expert, even the evidence will be much the same.

"We will be seeing Chauvin front and center on those videos," former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger told KARE 11 earlier this month. 

Heffelfinger said even though Chauvin already pleaded guilty to his federal charges and won't be in court, he essentially will be on trial. 

"The three defendants left here, to be blunt, they'll be pointing fingers at Chauvin, 'We tried to stop it, Chauvin wouldn't let us. Chauvin's responsible,'" Heffelfinger said.

One main difference between the trials is that while much of Chauvin's state trial was streamed live, cameras won't be allowed in the federal courtroom. Most of the images seen by the public will be provided by a sketch artist. 

RELATED: Federal trial for former MPD officers in George Floyd case starts this week

Judge Magnuson has voiced concern about the ongoing COVID situation and courtroom security, saying at a pre-trial hearing "anarchy cannot exist and will not be permitted to exist... the rule of law must prevail." He closed by encouraging the government to bring the case "into more definitive perspective... move the case along, and get it tried in a shorter time" to lessen everyone's exposure to COVID and prevent a possible mistrial.  

Last month, fellow former officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal charges involving Floyd's death. 

Lane and Kueng were rookies just a few days into their jobs as full-fledged officers on the day of Floyd's death. The two were the first officers to respond to a report that Floyd had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill, and they helped Chauvin restrain him. Tou Thao was the second-most senior officer on the scene after Chauvin. He held back a group of bystanders shouting at the officers to get off Floyd.

The three former officers have not yet stood trial on additional state charges. On Wednesday, the state postponed that trial, rescheduling the start date from March 7 to June 13. 

RELATED: Trial of former Minneapolis officers involved in George Floyd's death moved to June

At the state level Thao, Lane and Kueng are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd's murder on June 25, 2021 and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. He is currently being held in Minnesota's only maximum security prison, Oak Park Heights.

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