A jury met to deliberate for a second day on Thursday on whether three former Minneapolis police officers denied George Floyd his civil rights by failing to come to the aid of the handcuffed Black man pinned beneath another officer’s knee.
Tou Thao, 36; J. Alexander Kueng, 28; and Thomas Lane, 38, all testified in their own defense in the federal trial at the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, which began on Jan. 20. They have told jurors they did not realize at the time that Floyd was in dire need of medical care, which it was their duty to provide.
Their lawyers say prosecutors failed to prove the men acted with deliberate indifference during the May 2020 arrest, even though they had what a prosecutor called “front-row seats” to Floyd’s killing beside a police car parked in a Minneapolis intersection.
Thao and Kueng are also charged with willfully breaching Floyd’s rights by not intervening in the use of excessive force by their colleague Derek Chauvin. A widely seen cellphone video showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of the prone Floyd for more than 9 minutes. Floyd begged for his life before falling limp, while horrified onlookers pleaded for the police to get off Floyd and check his pulse.
Floyd’s killing sparked protests in cities around the world against police brutality and racism. Thao is Asian American, Kueng describes himself as mixed race and Lane is white.
Chauvin, 45, was convicted of Floyd’s murder at a separate state trial last year and sentenced to 22-1/2 years in prison. In December, he pleaded guilty to the federal charge of violating Floyd’s rights.
Defense lawyers said the officers deferred to the authority of Chauvin, the most senior officer at the scene with 19 years at the Minneapolis Police Department.
Kueng and Lane, who first handcuffed Floyd on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill in a nearby store, have noted that they were rookies only a few days out of training, which lasted more than a year. They used their knees to pin down Floyd’s buttocks and legs while Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. Thao, who had been on the force for eight years, stood to the side of Floyd, keeping back bystanders.
Medical experts have testified that Floyd almost certainly would have survived the arrest if he had been rolled onto his side once the officers restrained him, as the officers acknowledged that they had been taught to do.
All three men face years in prison if convicted, and are also due to stand trial in a Minneapolis court in June on state charges of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder.