Three former Minneapolis police officers who were present with Derek Chauvin at the scene as he pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd ; were convicted on Thursday of violating George floyd civil rights in a case that is likely to increase scrutiny over how officers are trained to intervene with rogue colleagues.
Prosecutors had argued that former officers Thomas K. Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lan and Tou Thao knew Floyd was in medical danger beneath Chauvin’s knee but put their “discomfort in questioning a colleague” above their sworn duty to save a life.
Jury found ex-officers Guilty
After a month-long trial that propels a harsh light on police training and practices in Minneapolis; a jury found Kueng, Lane and Thao guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights by refusing to provide him with medical aid. The jury found that the actions of all three men caused Floyd’s death.
U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who presided over the case, did not order the officers to be taken into custody; citing a separate trial scheduled for June on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The Judge said he would announce sentencing in the civil rights case at a later date.
The courtroom was tight-lipped as Magnuson read the verdicts for each former officer. Thao and Kueng showed no visible reaction as they were found guilty. Lane shook his head and appeared to toss something on the table in reaction to the decision; causing a noise that echoed across the courtroom.
In a statement, Ben Crump, civil rights attorney and other members of the legal team representing the Floyd family; called the decision “another important chapter in our journey for justice” for Floyd.
Ben Crump said, “These officers tried to devise any excuse that could let them wash the blood from their hands, but following these verdicts, George’s blood will forever stain them,”.
He further added that “Today’s guilty verdicts should serve as the guiding example of why police departments across America should expand and prioritize instruction on an officer’s duty to intervene and recognize when a fellow officer is using excessive force.”
Floyd’s Brother Spoke to reporters
Floyd’s brother, Philonise, spoke to reporters afterwards, his eyes were soaked in tears. “I feel like I can breathe again,” he said. But he added: “This is just accountability. It can never mean justice because I can never get George back.”
Ex-officers said they were different to Chauvin
The former officers, each of whom took the stand in his defence, said they were deferring to Chauvin; the senior officer at the scene, they were unsure whether he was using irrational force and saying they relied on his experience to guide what they said was an unsettling scene. They also pointed a finger at the Minneapolis Police Department, claiming inadequate and confusing training and questioning why Chauvin was allowed to train young officers such as Kueng.
Acting U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats called the jury’s decision “a reminder that all sworn law enforcement, regardless of rank or seniority have a duty to intervene.”
Kovats said at a News conference “It’s an important duty of policing, a duty followed every day by police officers in communities around the United States, often under very difficult conditions,”
He added that “Officers Thao, Kueng and Lane on that day failed to fulfil this duty, and as a result; George Floyd senselessly died. That is why they were charged. That is why they were convicted.”