George Floyd federal civil rights trial defense: His death was tragic, not a crime

The defense attorney in the federal trial of three Minneapolis officers charged for violating George Floyd’s civil rights stated Tuesday during closing arguments that Floyd’s death was tragic, but not necessarily criminal.

George Floyd federal civil rights trial defense: His death was tragic, not a crime

Robert Paule stated that officers on the scene did what was best for Floyd, holding him until paramedics arrived. He said that Tou Thao did not intend to act with a bad intent or an improper motive to disregard or disobey the law.

Thao was on the scene watching traffic and bystanders as Floyd was taken down by the other officers.

Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thao are charged for depriving Floyd his right to medical treatment as Derek Chauvin put his knee into Floyd's neck 9 1/2 minutes. Thao and Kueng are also accused of failing to intervene in order to stop Chauvin's killing on May 25, 2020. This triggered protests around the world and a reexamination and discussion about racism and police work.

As the government closed its case during the month-long trial, Manda Sertich, the prosecutor, singled out each ex-officer.

Sertich stated that Thao looked directly at Chauvin, and ignored the pleas of bystanders to help the man dying "right in front of their eyes."

She claimed Kueng, who was seated on Floyd's back and picked gravel from the tire of a police SUV as Chauvin "mocked George Floyd by saying that it took a hell of a lot oxygen to continue talking".

Lane held Floyd's feet and voiced concern that he knew Floyd was in pain but did not give Floyd the medical help he knew Floyd needed, the prosecutor stated.

Prosecutors claim that Floyd was not rolled onto his side by the officers and that they did not give him CPR.

Sertich dismissed Lane's attempt at CPR after an ambulance arrived. He said that the officers did not perform CPR for Floyd until 2 1/2 minutes after Floyd became unresponsive.

She said, "They chose not to do anything and it resulted in Mr. Floyd's suicide."

Defense lawyers argued that Minneapolis Police Department's training system was insufficient. They also attacked the police culture, claiming that it teaches officers to listen to their senior officers. Chauvin was the one who called the shots on the scene. Both Lane and Kueng were rookies.

Sertich rebutted these arguments. "Officer Chauvin doesn't order these defendants around. He's barely speaking to them," she stated. "The officers knew George Floyd was unable to breathe and was in danger."

The prosecutor went through all the evidence to show that Thao, Kueng, and Chauvin failed to intervene. She stated that they made no statement, gestures, or physical interventions to stop Chauvin. Thao's status of a veteran officer was also mentioned: "He certainly had all the means to save Chauvin."

Both counts contain language indicating that Floyd was "willfully" stripped of his constitutional rights by officers.

She stated that on the intervention charge, the prosecutors only had to prove that Chauvin knew that the force Chauvin was using was unreasonable and that they had a duty not to use it. She said that Floyd was denied medical treatment because the officers knew Floyd was suffering and did nothing to help him.

Sertich contrasted officers' inaction to the desperate cries from bystanders, pleading with them for Floyd and to check for their pulse. "Even though the officers had no power, authority, or obligation, they knew that they had to do something."

Sertich stated that those bystanders gave Thao's and Kueng "play-by-play commentary", which should have raised their awareness of Floyd's situation -- shouting at Floyd that he couldn’t breathe, that he wasn’t responsive, and asking the officers to take a closer look at Floyd.

Sertich stated, asking jurors for videos to show what happened.

Lane testified during the trial that he twice asked Floyd if he should roll over, but was denied, and that he held onto his position because an ambulance was approaching.

Kueng stated that Chauvin was his former training officers and that he held a lot of influence over his career. He stated that he trusted Chauvin’s advice.

Thao stated that he was looking out for Floyd and that he believed the officers were taking care of him.

In December, Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal charges. This was months after he had been convicted of manslaughter and state murder.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson chose 18 jurors to begin the trial, with six alternates. There are still 14 remaining: 12 will be deliberating and two alternates. After a jury that appears all White will review the case, a juror who looked Asian American was dismissed Tuesday morning. The court didn't release demographic information.

Lane, who's White, Kueng who's Black, and Thao who's Hmong American face separate trials in June on state charges that they aid and abet murder and manslaughter.

Just as another major civil right trial in Georgia was ending, the trial of three White men was wrapping up. They were convicted of hate crimes charges in Ahmaud's death . Ahmaud was a 25-year old Black man who was pursued and shot on February 2020.


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