Last week I previewed the federal trial of the three former Minneapolis police officers other than Derek Chauvin: Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao. They are charged with violating the civil rights of George Floyd in the arrest that resulted in his death. Were it not for this gratuitous prosecution, the three officers would already have been tried on the state criminal charges pending against them in state court. Why these charges and why this trial? I haven’t seen the answer yet. If only for this reason, I can’t help but hope that the officers are acquitted in this trial.

The federal trial begins in earnest with opening statements this morning. I came down to the Warren E. Burger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown St. Paul. The skyways into the courthouse are closed and the building is ringed with special fencing to keep things from getting out of hand. I think it’s too damned cold to worry about that, but you can’t be too cautious. As I write at 9:45 a.m. — court is scheduled to convene at 10:00, but Judge Magnuson has just taken the bench — the Jury Assembly Room is not almost full of reporters observing the trial via video feed.

Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty in this case. The case is now styled United States v. Thao et al. in messages from the court. I don’t plan on attending the trial regularly. I hope to attend it irregularly and to convey an impression or two after opening statements today or tomorrow.

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