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Federal trial for ex-MPD officers postponed after positive COVID test

The court will be in recess until next Monday after Judge Paul Magnuson revealed one of the defendants in the case tested positive for COVID-19.

ST PAUL, Minn —

  • Trial postponed over positive COVID-19 test
  • Dept. of Corrections safety trainer doubles down on safety techniques taught to officers
  • Hennepin County Medical Examiner testifies about George Floyd's cause of death

Editor's note: The attached video first aired on Feb. 1, 2022

The trial for former Minneapolis police officers Thou Tao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane has been postponed after one of the defendants tested positive for COVID-19.

Attorneys gathered in the courtroom Wednesday morning before Judge Paul Magnuson adjourned the trial until Monday.

According to the pool reporter inside the courtroom, Kueng and Thao appeared this morning but Thomas Lane was not, suggesting he is the defendant who is infected with the virus.

A news release from the U.S. District Court says the defendant who tested positive for COVID will be retested prior to the trial resuming. All other trial participants who have been in close proximity to the COVID-positive individual, including their legal team, will be also need to be tested before the trial resumes.

Court officials went on to explain that all trial participants are required to answer a series of questions related to COVID-19 and it's symptoms each morning before the session begins. Someone who has tested positive, or been in close proximity with someone who has (within six feet for at least 15 minutes) is given a COVID-19 test immediately.

Kueng, Tao and Lane are charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights on the day he was murdered in May 2020. Kueng and Tao face an additional charge for not stepping in to help Floyd while fellow officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was convicted of murder in a state trial. 

RELATED: Who is on the jury for the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers?

Tuesday recap

Proceedings opened with Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker on the stand for cross-examination by the officers' defense teams. 

Robert Paule, defense attorney for Thou Tao, had Baker acknowledge he initially told the Hennepin County Attorney's Office that there was no physical evidence of asphyxia in George Floyd's autopsy.

Baker told jurors he was harassed and received multiple threats after the initial press release about Floyd's death was published.

After the break, Baker testified that his office received hundreds of phone calls and threats in reaction to his work in this case, but he told Paule no one influenced or pressured him.

The prosecution's next witness was Chris Douglas from Hennepin County's Department of Community Corrections. 

Douglas told the jury he is the safety trainer for all new employees, and gives corrections officers "refreshers" throughout the year. Douglas said he had trained Thomas Lane when he was a corrections officer in 2017.

Prosecutors asked Douglas about safety training techniques, particularly, what to do if a person is handcuffed in the prone position. He said he teaches officers to roll the subject to the side recovery position to help them breathe better.

Lane's defense attorney Earl Gray cross-examined Douglas, getting him to double down on his opinion that a person who is restrained and having trouble breathing should be rolled onto their side.

RELATED: Day 7: Hennepin Co. Medical Examiner, Dept. of Corrections safety trainer testify in federal trial

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