Trial for 3 officers in Floyd killing heads to closing arguments

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, February 22, 2022

ST. PAUL — Closing arguments were expected Tuesday in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights, with jurors to get the case after a month of testimony.

Thomas Lane was the final officer to present his defense, testifying Monday he didn’t realize how dire Floyd’s condition was while handcuffed, facedown on the street with Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed to his neck — until paramedics turned Floyd over.

“What went through your mind when you saw his face there, once he was tipped over?” Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, asked.

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“Um. He didn’t look good,” Lane said.

Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with depriving Floyd of his right to medical care as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Lane held the 45-year-old Black man’s feet, Kueng knelt on his back and Thao held back bystanders.

Kueng and Thao are also charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin in the May 25, 2020, killing that triggered protests worldwide and a re-examination of racism and policing.

Chauvin pleaded guilty in the federal case in December, months after being convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges.

The judge and attorneys have indicated closing arguments could take almost the whole day Tuesday. The jury will get instructions from the judge before deliberations begin.

The trial was nearing an end just as another major civil rights went to a jury Monday in Georgia. In that case, three white men are charged with hate crimes in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man who was chased and shot in February 2020.

In the Minnesota trial, prosecutors have argued that the officers violated their training by not rolling Floyd onto his side or giving him CPR. Defense attorneys have attacked the department’s training as inadequate and said have highlighted a culture that they said emphasized deference to senior officers like Chauvin.

Prosecutors said at the start of the trial that the officers stood by as Chauvin slowly killed Floyd in front of them.

They presented weeks of testimony and evidence about the officers’ training, arguing that they knew they had a duty to intervene to stop Chauvin, and that they knew they had a duty to render medical aid. They have argued that Floyd’s condition was so serious, even bystanders without basic medical training could see he needed help.

Defense attorneys have argued the Minneapolis Police Department’s training was inadequate. They also attacked a police culture that they said teaches officers to defer to their seniors, saying that Chauvin called all the shots at the scene. Lane and Kueng, both rookies, argued they deferred to Chauvin.

Lane testified that he asked twice if Floyd should be rolled over, but was rebuffed, and he held his position because an ambulance was on the way.

Kueng testified that Chauvin was his former training officer who had considerable sway over his career. He said he trusted Chauvin’s advice.

Thao testified that he was watching the bystanders and he trusted that the officers behind him were caring for Floyd.

At the start of the monthlong trial, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson selected a total of 18 jurors, including six alternates. Fifteen people now remain — 12 who will deliberate and three alternates. The court did not release demographic information, but the jury appeared largely white, with one woman who appeared to be of Asian descent, among the 12 expected to deliberate.

Lane, who is white; Kueng, who is Black; and Thao, who is Hmong American, also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.