The 12-person jury deliberated for nearly two full days before returning its verdict.
The jury heard nearly a month’s worth of arguments and testimony surrounding former Officers J. Alexander Kueng’s, Thomas Lane’s and Tou Thao’s behavior and response to the May 25, 2020, arrest involving Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who later died.
At the start of the trial, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson selected a total of 18 jurors, including six alternates. Three jurors were dismissed at various points during the trial.
The three former officers were charged with depriving Floyd of his right to medical care when the most senior officer at the scene, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes as Floyd pleaded for air before going silent. Kueng and Thao were also charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the May 25, 2020, killing that was captured on bystander video and triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.
For prosecutors, Kueng, Lane and Thao “chose to do nothing” as a fellow officer, Chauvin, squeezed the life out of Floyd. Defense attorneys countered that the officers were too inexperienced, weren’t trained properly and did not willfully violate Floyd’s rights.
Prosecutors sought to show during the month-long trial that the officers violated their training, including when they failed to roll Floyd onto his side or give him CPR. Prosecutors have argued that Floyd’s condition was so serious that even bystanders without basic medical training could see he needed help. But the defense said the Minneapolis Police Department’s training was inadequate and that the officers deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene.
Thao watched bystanders and traffic as the other officers held down Floyd. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs. All three officers testified.
Thao stared directly at Chauvin and ignored bystanders’ pleas to help a man who was dying “right before their eyes,” prosecutor Manda Sertich said.
Kueng casually picked gravel from a police SUV’s tire as Chauvin “mocked George Floyd’s pleas by saying it took a heck of a lot of oxygen to keep talking,” she said.
And Lane voiced concerns that showed he knew Floyd was in distress but “did nothing to give Mr. Floyd the medical aid he knew Mr. Floyd so desperately needed,” the prosecutor said.
But attorneys for rookies Lane and Kueng urged jurors to question why their clients were charged at all.
Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said his client was “very concerned” about Floyd and suggested rolling him onto his side so he could breathe, but was rebuffed twice by Chauvin. He noted that Lane tried to help revive Floyd after an ambulance arrived, telling jurors that “any reasonable person should just be disgusted, should be infuriated” that Lane was charged.
Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said that Chauvin was in charge and that police weren’t adequately trained on the duty to intervene. He also said Kueng looked up to Chauvin, his former field training officer, and “relied on this person’s experience.”
“I’m not trying to say he wasn’t trained,” Plunkett said. “I’m saying the training was inadequate to help him see, perceive and understand what was happening here.”
Thao and Chauvin went to the scene to help 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.
Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, said his client thought the officers were doing what they believed was best for Floyd — holding him until paramedics arrived.
The charges include language that the officers “willfully” deprived Floyd of his constitutional rights. That means jurors must find that officers acted “with a bad purpose or improper motive to disobey or disregard the law,” Paule said.
He noted that Thao increased the urgency of an ambulance call for Floyd, something he said was clearly “not for a bad purpose.” He also said that Thao reasonably believed Floyd was on drugs and needed to be restrained until medical assistance arrived.
Lane, who is White, Kueng, who is Black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
Chauvin pleaded guilty in the federal case in December, months after he was convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges.