25 January 2022

Video ‘will show three Minneapolis officers violated George Floyd’s rights’

25 January 2022

Prosecutors have played video from a police body camera as witness evidence resumed at the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating George Floyd’s civil rights as fellow officer Derek Chauvin killed him.

Former officers J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are broadly charged with depriving Mr Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority.

He died on May 25 2020 after Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine and a half minutes as the 46-year-old black man was face down, handcuffed and gasping for air.

Kueng knelt on Mr Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders from intervening in the killing that triggered worldwide protests and a re-examination of racism and policing.

J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/AP) (AP)

Prosecutors told US District Judge Paul Magnuson that they did not plan to play all the video evidence in court, but want it available to the jury when they deliberate.

Prosecutor Samantha Trepel, who works for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said during opening statements that the videos will show the three officers stood by as Chauvin “slowly killed George Floyd right in front of them”, and told jurors they “will ask you to hold these men accountable”.

But it was Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, who called “all of the shots”, one defence lawyer told jurors, adding that the Minneapolis Police Department did too little to train officers to intervene when a colleague should be stopped.

Another officer’s lawyer focused on Mr Floyd’s struggle with police before they restrained him, and a lawyer for the third officer said his client raised concerns about the restraint of Mr Floyd, but was rebuffed.

Samantha Trepel addresses the court (Cedric Hohnstadt/AP) (AP)

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter last year in state court. He also pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating Mr Floyd’s civil rights.

Kueng, who is black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are all charged with failing to provide Mr Floyd with medical care.

Thao and Kueng face an additional count of failing to stop Chauvin, who is white. Both counts allege the officers’ actions resulted in Mr Floyd’s death.

Lawyers for Kueng and Thao noted that prosecutors must prove the officers wilfully violated Mr Floyd’s constitutional rights — a high legal standard that essentially requires prosecutors to prove the officers knew what they were doing was wrong, but did it anyway.

Tom Plunkett, Kueng’s lawyer, highlighted the rookie status of his client and Lane, who were responding to a 911 call accusing Mr Floyd of using a counterfeit 20-dollar bill to buy a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. Thao and Chauvin responded as back-up.

“You’ll see and hear officer Chauvin call all of the shots,” Mr Plunkett said.

Surveillance video of the incident (Court TV/AP) (AP)

Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, said Lane was at Mr Floyd’s legs and could not see Chauvin’s knee on his neck.

Lane at one point suggested they use a restraint called the hobble on Mr Floyd, which would have meant he would have been on his side “and no doubt he’d be alive today”, Mr Gray said.

But he said Chauvin refused. Lane also suggested twice that they roll Mr Floyd over, but was rebuffed, the lawyer said.

Mr Gray also said Lane called an ambulance because of a cut on Mr Floyd’s lip and later had another officer increase the urgency of the ambulance code.

the lawyer noted that Lane got into the ambulance and helped perform chest compressions on Mr Floyd.

Thao’s lawyer, Robert Paule, said Mr Floyd’s death was a tragedy, “however, a tragedy is not a crime”. He also said a widely watched bystander video of the arrest does not show everything, including Mr Floyd struggling with officers who were trying to put him in a police vehicle.

Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges they aided and abetted both murder and manslaughter.

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