Amy Forliti et al., Associated Press, February 24, 2022
Three former Minneapolis police officers have been convicted of violating George Floyd’s civil rights.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were charged with depriving Floyd of his right to medical care when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed and facedown on the street on May 25, 2020.
Thao and Lane were also charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin.
The videotaped killing sparked protests in Minneapolis that spread around the globe as part of reckoning over racial injustice. Chauvin was convicted of murder last year in state court and pleaded guilty in December in the federal case.
Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.
Kueng and Lane both said they deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene. Thao testified that he relied on the other officers to care for Floyd’s medical needs as his attention was elsewhere.
Conviction of a federal civil rights violation that results in death is punishable by life in prison or even death, but such sentences are extremely rare.
Prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that the three officers “chose to do nothing” as Chauvin squeezed the life out of the 46-year-old Black man. Defense attorneys countered that the officers were too inexperienced, weren’t trained properly and did not willfully violate Floyd’s rights.
A handful of protesters stood outside the courthouse Thursday morning holding large signs, including one mocking the officers that said, “If I only had a brain, a heart, the nerve.” It was decorated with pictures of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz.”
All 12 members of the jury — eight women and four men — appear to be white, although the court has not released demographics such as race or age. A woman who appeared to be of Asian descent was excused Tuesday from the panel without explanation; a man who appears to be of Asian descent remains as an alternate if one of the current 12 cannot continue.
Lane is white, Kueng is Black and Thao is Hmong American.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.