One Down, Three to Go: How Will Chauvin Verdict Factor in Trials of Three Remaining Officers Charged in Death of George Floyd
As most in the nation applauded the verdict handed down by a Minneapolis jury finding former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter, one lingering question remains: how will the Chauvin verdict factor in the trial of the three officers also charged in the death of George Floyd last May.
Now free on $750,000 bail, the fates of former officers—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane—still hang in the balance. All three were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder which carries a maximum sentence of not more than 40 years, and second-degree manslaughter which could result in imprisonment of not more than 10 years or payment of not more than $20,000 or both.
“No doubt the guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial are bad news for the other three officers,” said L.A.-based civil rights attorney and CNN commentator Areva Martin. “Lang and Keung assisted Chauvin in putting George Floyd in the prone position and restraining him for nearly 10 minutes without providing medical assistance in violation of the department’s policies. Thao stood by in what can best be described as the “lookout.” position while the assault on George Floyd was carried out. The jury has made it clear this conduct is unreasonable excessive force and that the force caused Mr. Floyd’s death. They deemed this conduct murder. This leaves very few, if any, defenses for the remaining three defendants. I expect they are already talking to their lawyers about plea deals.”
Attorney Ricky Ivie of Ivie McNeill Wyatt agreed.
“The handwriting is on the wall. The pathway for how to obtain a conviction has already been established,” Ivie said. “The three officers are charged with aiding and abetting an unintentional murder. Now that the murder has been proven I predict the remaining defendants will make a plea bargain with the prosecution in exchange for a lesser sentence.”
Thao, a seven year veteran, was Chauvin’s partner. Thao stood bay between the crowd and the officers restraining Floyd. While the 35-year old was the only one of the remaining three former officers to have not participated in physically restraining Floyd, he was charged equally.
Thomas Lane was the first officer to approach Floyd, pointing a gun to his head and giving him a profanity laced order to get out of the car before handcuffing him. Lane would later be seen kneeling on—and holding down—his legs. The 38-year old rookie, who at one point was concerned about the possibility of “excited delirium”, is reported to have asked Chauvin if they shouldn’t roll Floyd on his side.
Alexander Kueng, also a rookie—having been on the Minneapolis police force for just a matter of days, kneeled on Floyd’s back for the more than nine minutes. He would subsequently check for a pulse after Floyd lost consciousness, and remark that he didn’t find one.
Kueng, who is bi-racial, was said to have joined the force to change the narrative between police and the Black community. His sister told the New York Times that as a Black man, her brother should have intervened. “I don’t care if it was his third day at work or not,” she said. “He knows right from wrong.”
While all three have been scheduled to stand trial together on August 23, their defenses will hardly be united as revealed in a legal motion by one of the defense attorneys.
“There are very likely going to be antagonistic defenses presented at the trial,” reported a lawyer for Thomas K. Lane. “It is plausible that all officers have a different version of what happened and officers place blame on one another.”
Lawyers for Lane and Keung say that they expressed concerns about Chavin’s actions, but did nothing to stop him even as in accordance with a 2016 Minneapolis police department policy, officers are required to “either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.”