It has been nearly two years since George Floyd was killed under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, an incident that provoked angry protests, destructive riots, and racial unrest throughout the remainder of 2020.
The ramifications of that incident are still unfolding, as the three other former Minneapolis, Minnesota officers involved in that incident have now been found guilty by a federal jury of violating Floyd’s civil rights, NBC News reported.
Those three former officers are J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao. Kueng and Lane had helped Chauvin pin the handcuffed Floyd prone on the ground while Thao worked to keep a crowd of concerned bystanders at bay.
All three had been charged with violating Floyd’s rights by not rendering necessary medical aid, while Kueng and Lane faced an additional charge of violating Floyd’s rights by failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of excessive and deadly force.
A question of department policies and training
According to Fox News, the federal jury had deliberated for two days following the roughly month-long trial before returning with guilty verdicts for all three former officers.
Prosecutors had argued successfully that the three officers chose to “do nothing” to stop Chauvin from killing Floyd, a “willful” violation of department policy and training that requires officers to intervene against others using excessive force and to render medical aid to those in need.
Defense attorneys for the three former officers, two of whom were rookies, unsuccessfully argued that the policies had been unclear and the training inadequate and sought to cast the bulk of the blame for what occurred solely on Chauvin, who was the senior veteran officer on the scene that the others deferred to. Kueng’s attorney specifically cited that deference to seniority by noting that Chauvin had been his rookie client’s training officer.
Lane’s attorney even attempted to argue that his rookie client shouldn’t have even been charged, given that he had expressed concern for Floyd’s wellbeing but was overruled by Chauvin, as well as that he had finally attempted to render medical aid once the paramedics had arrived on the scene.
Thao’s attorney also argued that his client did nothing wrong as he had expressed “urgency” in calling for an ambulance and believed keeping Floyd restrained was necessary due to the belief — correct, as it turned out — that Floyd was on drugs as well as in light of Floyd’s earlier violent resistance to being arrested for using a counterfeit $20 bill.
NBC noted that all three men face the maximum penalty of life in federal prison, though their sentences likely won’t be so severe. Meanwhile, all three also face a state trial in June for aiding and abetting the murder and manslaughter of Floyd by Chauvin, who has already been convicted and sentenced to more than 22 years in prison.
AG Garland weighs in on the verdict
“Today’s verdict recognizes that two police officers violated the Constitution by failing to intervene to stop another officer from killing George Floyd, and three officers violated the Constitution by failing to provide aid to Mr. Floyd in time to prevent his death,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday.
He added, “The Justice Department will continue to seek accountability for law enforcement officers whose actions, or failure to act, violate their constitutional duty to protect the civil rights of our citizens. George Floyd should be alive today.”