George Floyd Case: Former Minneapolis officers found guilty in latest federal trial

George Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020 (Image via Getty Images/Anadolu Agency)
George Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020 (Image via Getty Images/Anadolu Agency)

George Floyd's case has a new verdict. On February 24, a federal jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane guilty of violating Floyd's civil rights.

George Floyd was killed by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin. A video of Floyd's death sparked protests against police brutality across the United States and the world.

The three former officers are accused of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care by pressing their knees into Floyd's neck for nine-and-a-half minutes, while the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed and lying face down in the street on May 25, 2020. In addition, Lane and Thao were also charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin.

Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, called the verdicts "accountability" but added that justice is impossible as he will never be able to see George again.

Brandon Williams, Floyd's cousin, expressed hope that the verdicts would change laws and policies to "protect people from such situations." He also said that the outcome “sends a message that says, if you murder or use excessive or deadly force, there are consequences that follow.”

Chauvin was convicted of murder in a state court last year and pleaded guilty in the federal case in December 2021.

Lane kept Floyd's legs in place while Kueng kneeled on his back, and Thao held back bystanders. Lane and Kueng both said Chauvin was the senior officer on the scene. Thao testified that he relied on the other officers to tend to Floyd's medical needs because he was busy elsewhere.

The three men - Lane, Kueng, and Thao - are White, Black, and Hmong American, respectively.

If convicted of a violation of federal civil rights that results in death, one may be sentenced to life in prison or even death, but such sentences are extremely rare. Until they are sentenced, the former officers remain on bond.

What happened at George Floyd's latest trial?

During the month-long trial, prosecutors said the officers violated their training with a number of actions, including failing to move Floyd or give him CPR. Prosecutors argued that George Floyd's condition was so critical that even bystanders without basic medical training could recognize that he needed assistance.

The defense said the officers' training was inadequate and they deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene.

According to prosecutors, the three officers "chose to do nothing" as Chauvin choked Floyd to death. Defense attorneys countered that the police officers were too inexperienced, untrained, and didn't intentionally violate Floyd's rights.

All 12 jurors, including eight women and four men, appeared to be white, although the court has not released demographic information such as their race or age.

The jury that deliberated Chauvin's state murder case contrasted sharply with that of this jury. Chauvin's jury was half white and half non-white.

Federal juries were selected from all over the state, including areas that are much more conservative and less diverse than the Minneapolis area from which Chauvin's jury was drawn. Chauvin was later convicted of murder and manslaughter and pleaded guilty to civil rights charges.

Chauvin and Thao assisted Kueng and Lane after they responded to a complaint that George Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Floyd resisted officers who were trying to put him in a police SUV.

Kueng kneeled on George Floyd's back as Lane held his legs and Thao watched traffic and bystanders pass.

The jurors were not kept away from outside influences that could sway their verdict, as is sometimes done by keeping them in hotels while deliberating. During deliberations, they were given the ability to watch videos and examine other evidence they liked.

Moreover, Lane, Kueng, and Thao will face a separate trial in June for aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

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Edited by R. Elahi