MINNEAPOLIS — A motions hearing Thursday in a Hennepin County courtroom could set the stage for the state trial of former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng.
The two defendants, now incarcerated at separate federal facilities after being convicted of depriving George Floyd of his civil rights, are charged at the state level with aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.
KARE 11's Lou Raguse, who has covered previous trials involving Floyd's death at both the federal and state levels, says the attorneys for both men appeared in front of Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill. After discussing the topic of "excited delirium" and how evidence and testimony on the controversial condition can be used, Raguse says there was an interesting discussion concerning the experience of the officers.
Kueng was on just his third shift as a sworn officer when the encounter with Floyd occurred, and Raguse Tweeted that prosecutors wanted to introduce the fact that MPD policy required him to make 100 reports before he could go out on patrol by himself. That would challenge the expected assertions by Kueng's defense team that his actions that day were reasonable for a rookie.
Judge Cahill ruled that prosecutors can ask questions about MPD's training program and the 100 report requirement, but cannot get into specifics of reports Kueng wrote.
During the discussion Kueng's attorney, Thomas Plunkett, revealed information from a pre-hire psychological report on fellow ex-officer Derek Chauvin indicated Chauvin was not well-suited to be a field training officer (FTO). Chauvin, convicted of murdering Floyd, did in fact become a FTO and was responsible for mentoring and training Kueng.
Raguse says Plunkett shared the following notes from the report about Chauvin:
- Difficulty working closely with team members
- Not particularly friendly or warm
- Ability to be supportive to citizens in times of stress should be monitored
Plunkett's goal, Raguse reports, is to show Kueng received poor training from a bad trainer.
Pretrial motions generally lay the groundwork for cases both defense teams and prosecutors intend to build. Those motions, which will be heard and ruled on by Judge Cahill, can include which witnesses will be allowed to testify, and evidence and exhibits that can be introduced when the trial begins Oct. 24.
A third former officer, Thomas Lane, struck a deal with the state to plead guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in exchange for dropping the aiding and abetting murder charge. As part of the plea Lane was sentenced to 36 months in prison, to be served at the same time as his federal sentence for depriving Floyd of his civil rights.
State prosecutors offered both Thao and Kueng similar plea deals but both elected to take their chances at trial.
Kueng is currently incarcerated at a minimum security federal prison in Lisbon, Ohio after being sentenced to 36 months for depriving Floyd of his civil rights, while Thao is serving the first days of a 42-month federal sentence at a facility in Lexington, Kentucky. It is expected that both will be transferred back to Minnesota and placed in the temporary custody of Hennepin County while their trial is conducted.
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