A Minnesota jury began to deliberate on the fate of three former police officers on Wednesday charged with offense the civil rights of George Floyd, the African-American man whose murder sparked nationwide protests.
Tou Thao, 36, J. Alexander Kueng, 28, and Thomas Lane, 38, are on trial in federal court in Saint Paul for their roles in the May 2020 death of Floyd in twin city Minneapolis.
“It’s your duty to get the facts,” Judge Paul Magnuson told the jury of eight women and four men, “and then enforce the law.”
“Don’t be influenced by sympathy or prejudice,” the judge said before sending the jurors away to begin their deliberations.
Prosecutors and lawyers for the three men closed their closing arguments on Tuesday after a month-long trial.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for nearly 10 minutes until he passed out and died, was convicted last year of murder and is serving 22 years in prison.
Thao, Kueng and Lane were the other officers involved in the arrest of 46-year-old Floyd for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes.
While Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, Kueng lay on his back and Lane held onto his legs. Thao stopped bystanders begging Chauvin to get rid of the visibly distressed Floyd.
Floyd’s death, filmed by a bystander, sparked months of protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
Thao, who is Hmong American, Kueng, who is black, and Lane, who is white, are charged with showing “deliberate indifference” to Floyd’s medical needs.
Thao and Kueng are also accused of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of “unreasonable force” against Floyd.
Lane is not facing the second charge. Video of the arrest shows Lane suggesting twice that Floyd be rolled on his side.
– ‘Make no mistake, this is a crime’ –
In her closing statement, prosecutor Manda Sertich said all three officers did not provide medical assistance to Floyd.
“The officers knew that George Floyd could not breathe, had no heartbeat and was dying,” she said. “Make no mistake, this is a crime.”
LeeAnn Bell, another prosecutor, said: “This happened because Thao and Kueng did not intervene and all three failed to provide medical assistance.”
“They didn’t do the right thing but the hard one,” Bell said.
Lawyers for Kueng and Lane stressed that the two officers had only been on duty for a few days and deferred to Chauvin, a nearly 20-year-old veteran and the senior officer at the scene.
Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, said his client was concerned about Floyd when he asked Chauvin if Floyd should be put on his side.
“Chauvin doesn’t say anything, he’s ignoring this person here, he’s just a rookie,” Gray said of his client.
The defense attorney also noted that Lane asked Kueng to check Floyd’s pulse and administer CPR after an ambulance arrived.
“All of that is concerned with George Floyd’s medical needs,” Gray said.
Thao, Kueng and Lane are to be charged by the state of Minnesota over Floyd’s death in a trial set to begin June 13.
But as a sign of the importance of the case, federal prosecutors also accused the agents of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights.