Former officers Tou Thao, 36, J. Alexander Kueng, 28, and Thomas Lane, 38, tried to restrain Floyd as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck and back for more than 9 minutes during the arrest, resulting in Floyd’s death. Thao, Chauvin’s partner, stood nearby and kept back a crowd of horrified onlookers, while Kueng and Lane — both rookie officers in their first days on the job — restrained Floyd’s torso and legs.
“They chose not to intervene, they chose not to aid Mr. Floyd,” Assistant US Attorney Manda Sertich said in closing arguments. “This is a crime. The defendants are guilty as charged.”
“I think I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out,” Thao said on the stand, referring to Chauvin.
Thao, Kueng and Lane have pleaded not guilty and are being tried together. They also face a state trial later this year on charges of aiding and abetting in Floyd’s murder.
Officers were ill-equipped to intervene, defense says
Before the court ended for the day, prosecutors and defense attorneys spoke at length during closing arguments about the charges.
Defense attorneys argued that the indictment language of “willfully” failing to aid Floyd or stop Chauvin does not apply.
Attorney Robert Paule, on behalf of Thao, said that a person acts willfully when they commit an act with a bad purpose or improper motive to disobey or disregard the law. He added that “just because something has a tragic ending doesn’t mean it’s a crime.”
Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said there was no specific intent on his client’s part.
“If it is not shown there’s a willful act with specific intent … with proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” then it hasn’t been proven, Plunkett said.
The core of Plunkett’s argument was that Kueng was an inexperienced officer and subordinate to Chauvin, a department veteran of more than 18 years and the field training officer in charge.
Chauvin informed his colleagues Floyd needed to be taken to the ground, Kueng has said, and Thao earlier testified that the intention was to protect him and any bystanders. No one meant to hurt Floyd, Thao said.
Earl Gray, attorney for Lane, also touched on Chauvin’s seniority over the other former officers. “We don’t need commanders to tell us that if someone has seniority over you, you listen to them,” Gray said. The date of the incident was Lane’s fourth day with the department.
Lane’s questions during the arrest about repositioning Floyd was also a sign that Lane “was never deliberately indifferent,” Gray argued.
When Lane mentioned he was worried about so-called “excited delirium” and suggested flipping Floyd on his side, Gray said, he showed “concern about serious medical needs. Is that deliberate indifference? No!”
‘They chose not to intervene’
Assistant US Attorney LeeAnn Bell argued the force primarily applied by Chauvin became unreasonable once Floyd went unconscious, and “Officer Thao and Officer Kueng had a duty to stop it.”
“Force used has to be appropriate and proportional at the time,” she said. “If they go unconscious, you cannot continue to use force.”
“If you can’t find a pulse, your answer cannot be ‘I did nothing,'” she added as she singled out some of the defense’s arguments, in particular former officer Lane, who at one point helped restrain Floyd on the ground.
“Mr. Lane could get up from where he was,” she began, saying he could have walked over and looked for a pulse. “It is not reasonable not to do anything and excuse it with ‘I’m down by the legs,’ so I just didn’t do anything.”
“They didn’t have to intend to harm Mr. Floyd, they just needed to know they could take certain actions under the law and failed to do so,” Bell later added.
Assistant US Attorney Manda Sertich said Tuesday that all the witnesses, “including the defendants,” agreed they had a duty to intervene.
CNN’s Julia Vargas Jones and Omar Jimenez reported from St. Paul, Minnesota; Travis Caldwell wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Bill Kirkos, Brad Parks, Amir Vera and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.