A jury in the United States has found three former Minneapolis police officers guilty 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 the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes as he was handcuffed and face down on the street on May 25, 2020.
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Thao and Lane also were charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin.
The videotaped killing sparked protests around the globe as part of reckoning over racial injustice and police violence. 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. The former officers will remain free on bond pending sentencing.
During the monthlong trial, prosecutors sought to show that the officers violated their training, including when they failed to move Floyd or give him CPR. Prosecutors argued that Floyd’s condition was so serious that even bystanders without basic medical training could see he needed help.
The defence said the officers’ training was inadequate and that they had deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene.
Prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that the three officers “chose to do nothing” as Chauvin squeezed the life out of Floyd. Defence attorneys countered that the officers were too inexperienced, were not trained properly and did not willfully violate Floyd’s rights.
A handful of protesters stood outside the court on 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.
Chauvin and Thao went to the scene to help rookies Kueng and Lane after they responded to a call that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Floyd struggled with officers as they tried to put him in a police SUV.
The jurors were allowed to watch videos from the scene and view other evidence as much as they wanted during deliberations.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
Lawyers for Floyd’s family welcomed the convictions, calling the outcome of the trial “another important chapter” in the quest to ensure justice for the 2020 murder.
“Nothing will bring George Floyd back to his loved ones, but with these verdicts, we hope that the ignorance and indifference toward human life shown by these officers will be erased from our nation’s police departments, so no other family has to experience a loss like this,” the lawyers said in a statement.