A federal jury on Thursday found three former Minneapolis police officers guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights during a May 2020 arrest that ended in Floyd’s death.
Former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were found guilty of showing deliberate indifference to Floyd’s medical needs during the arrest, according to CNN. The jury convicted Thao and Kueng of an additional charge of failing to intervene to stop former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in April last year of murdering Floyd, from kneeling on the area of Floyd’s neck and shoulders.
The trio of former officers each face a maximum penalty of life in prison. The three also have yet to face trial in a state case scheduled for June in which the men are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin was sentenced to more than 22 years in jail in June of last year after being convicted of murder in his state trial over Floyd’s death. He was facing a maximum penalty of 40 years behind bars after being convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors hammered Thao, Keung, and Lane during closing arguments of the case, accusing the former officers of not intervening in Floyd’s murder. As NBC News reports:
In closing arguments, prosecutors said the defendants had “front-row seats” to Floyd’s murder and “chose to do nothing” to help him while Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 ½ minutes.
“They chose not to aid George Floyd, as the window into which Mr. Floyd’s life could have been saved slammed shut,” prosecutor Manda Sertich said Tuesday.
The attorneys of the defendants called Floyd’s death a tragedy, but argued that it’s not criminal in their case. They also stated that Chauvin was trained and that the officers had no reason to believe that Chauvin was mishandling the arrest. NBC News reported:
During closing arguments, Robert Paule, a defense attorney for Thao, said Floyd’s death was a tragedy, but “just because something has a tragic ending does not mean it’s a crime.”
Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said his client was confident in Chauvin and had received training from the police department that “was inadequate to help him see, perceive and understand what was happening here.”
An attorney for Lane, the only one of the three officers not charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin from using excessive force, said the former officer was “concerned” for Floyd and suggested turning him on his side, but was ignored by Chauvin. Lane also assisted paramedics, Earl Gray told jurors during his closing argument.
Police officers were called on Floyd in May 2020 after he attempted to pass fake currency at a convenience store. As officers tried to take Floyd into custody, he resisted getting into a police cruiser and ended up on the ground with multiple officers pinning him down.
The Hennepin County medical examiner said after an autopsy that Floyd, who had a history of addiction, had a potentially “fatal level” of fentanyl in his body. The medical examiner ultimately ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, however, concluding the cause was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”