Ex-Minneapolis officers guilty on all civil rights charges related to George Floyd's death
J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were accused of failing to intervene on Floyd's behalf as he pleaded for his life and repeatedly said he couldn't breathe while pinned under the knee of former Officer Derek Chauvin's knee for more than nine minutes. Along with Thomas Lane, Kueng and Thao were also charged with a second count of violating Floyd's rights by failing to render aid during the restraint captured on a bystander video that fueled global unrest and a racial reckoning.
MINNEAPOLIS — Three former Minneapolis police were convicted by a federal jury Thursday, Feb. 24, of depriving George Floyd of his constitutional rights during the fatal restraint outside Cup Foods on May 25, 2020.
The three officers were found guilty on all counts.
J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were accused of failing to intervene on Floyd's behalf as he pleaded for his life and repeatedly said he couldn't breathe while pinned under the knee of former Officer Derek Chauvin's knee for more than nine minutes.
Along with Thomas Lane, Kueng and Thao were also charged with a second count of violating Floyd's rights by failing to render aid during the restraint captured on a bystander video that fueled global unrest and a racial reckoning.
Having found the officers guilty, the jury was asked whether Floyd's restraint led to his death. The jury answered yes, allowing the judge to give the former cops longer sentences if he chooses.
The three former officers now face a second trial in Floyd's death on June 13 in Hennepin County District Court where they are accused of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Chauvin has already been convicted in both state and federal court. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in December to violating Floyd's constititional rights, but has yet to be sentenced on that crime. He was convicted of Floyd's murder last April and sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. Chauvin is being held in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights.
Jury selection in the trial of Kueng, Lane and Thao began in late January. Lawyers made their opening statements Jan. 24 and closing arguments Tuesday. The prosecution put 21 witnesses on the stand. The defense attorneys called 11 witnesses, including all three defendants.
Jurors began deliberations in the case just before 10 a.m. Wednesday and worked about 13 hours before reaching their verdict just before 4 p.m. Thursday.
Floyd died on Memorial Day in the custody of the officers. The following day, police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired all four officers as the video shot by teenage bystander Darnella Frazier ricocheted around the world on social media.
Kueng and Lane were first on the scene at the convenience store on a report from a clerk that Floyd has used a counterfeit $20 to buy a pack of cigarettes. They first approached him in his Mercedes SUV on the street and cuffed his hands behind his back before walking him across the street and trying to get him into the back of a squad vehicle.
As Kueng and Lane struggled to get an upset Floyd into the backseat, Chauvin and Thao arrived to help. With Thao standing watch, the other three officers placed a handcuffed Floyd prone on the street.
Floyd repeatedly said he couldn't breathe while Chauvin put his knee on the back of Floyd's neck, pressing the side of his face into the street. Kueng held down Floyd's lower back area while Lane controlled his legs. Thao remained standing, holding back an increasingly angry group of bystanders on the curb who pleaded for them to relent or check Floyd's pulse.
In his instructions to the jury before deliberations, Magnuson told jurors they must view the evidence in light of what a "reasonable officer at the scene" would have done "without the benefit of 20-20 hindsight."
He told them they must consider whether the decision to use force on Floyd was reasonable under circumstances that were tense and rapidly evolving.
It violates the Constitution for a police officer to fail to intervene if he had knowledge the force was unreasonable and ability to help, Magnuson said.
The jurors, all 12 of whom are white, come from all over the state. Eight are women and four are men. Two each are from Hennepin, Ramsey and Olmsted counties. One juror each is from the following counties: Anoka, Blue Earth, Washington, Jackson, Nicollet and Scott.
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