Prosecution rests in 3 cops’ trial in George Floyd killing

Published 4:52 pm Monday, February 14, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

ST. PAUL — Federal prosecutors rested their case Monday against three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights.

The prosecution rested after nearly three weeks of testimony from bystanders, doctors, police officers and others.

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are charged with violating Floyd’s constitutional rights while acting under government authority. All three are accused of depriving Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, of medical care while he was handcuffed, facedown as Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs while Thao kept bystanders back.

Email newsletter signup

Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene to stop the May 25, 2020, killing, which triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing. The charges allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Earlier Monday, Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded the widely seen video of Floyd’s killing, began crying as she started testifying, prompting the judge to take a quick, unexpected break.

Frazier, who was 16 when Floyd was killed, stated her name and current age, which is 18. When prosecutor LeeAnn Bell asked her whether she is currently in school or working, Frazier began crying, saying, “I can’t do it. I’m sorry.”

Fraizer’s testimony resumed after a short break.

A use-of-force expert testified Monday that the three former Minneapolis police officers should have intervened. But defense attorneys hammered away at Tim Longo, the police chief at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, during a tense day of testimony that was peppered with emphatic objections, numerous warnings from the judge that the information was repetitive, and combative cross-examination.

Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, challenged Longo on whether he was asserting that “my client, a four-day veteran” should have thrown Chauvin off Floyd.

Both Kueng and Lane were rookies, just a few days into their jobs as full-fledged officers.

“I think someone should have done something, yes,” Longo replied.

Gray continued, thundering, “What else should they have done besides that?”

“No one asked Chauvin to get his knee off his neck,” Longo said after a little more discussion.

Longo testified earlier that an officer has a duty to take “affirmative steps” to stop another officer from using excessive force.

“The term ‘intervene’ is a verb, it’s an action word. And it requires an act. And what you do is, you stop the behavior,” he said.

When it comes to a duty to provide medical aid, he said, Thao “didn’t do anything” and Kueng took no further action after checking Floyd’s pulse, and finding none.

Longo said that when Lane gave chest compressions to Floyd in an ambulance, he was fulfilling his duty to provide medical aid. But, he said, that does not apply to what happened before that point, when no aid was given.

Thao’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, suggested that Longo reviewed only materials that prosecutors “cherry picked” for him and didn’t look further. He pressed a defense theme that the Minneapolis Police Department bears responsibility for Floyd’s killing for training its officers poorly.

Plunkett played part of a training presentation that showed violent confrontations between officers and subjects, with audio of a locker room speech given by actor Al Pacino, playing a coach in the 1999 football movie “Any Given Sunday,” exhorting his players to fight “inch by inch” because it will make the difference between winning and losing — and living and dying.

Plunkett said the video is the last thing recruits see in their use-of-force training and asked if it was consistent with accepted police policies and practices. Longo replied that he found the video “very disturbing,” because of its images of people dying and getting hurt, but that he didn’t know the context in which it was presented.

Prosecutors began presenting their case on Jan. 24 and said late Friday that they expected to rest Monday. Defense attorneys will then start presenting witnesses. The attorney for Lane has said his client will testify. Attorneys for Thao and Kueng haven’t said if they will.

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and later pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge.

Lane, who is white; Kueng, who is Black; and Thao, who is Hmong American, also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.