Thao and Kueng pleaded not guilty to failing to intervene in Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force, and Lane, Thao, and Kueng pleaded not guilty to willfully failing to aid Floyd. Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal charges against him in a plea deal that caps any additional time in prison at two and a half years. In the state case against him, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.
Lane, Kueng, and Thao have sought to distance themselves from Chauvin, arguing for and getting separate trials from the convicted ex-cop in state and federal courts.
Defense attorneys for Lane, Kueng, and Thao blamed their clients’ actions on a lack of training, allegations that Floyd resisted arrest, and Chauvin’s presence on the scene as the most senior officer. Thao had served as an officer for more than eight years at the time of Floyd’s death, but Lane and Kueng had only been on the job a few days, according to CNN and the Associated Press.
“You’ll see and hear officer Chauvin call all of the shots,” Kueng’s attorney Tom Plunkett said, noting that the other officers called Chauvin “sir.”
Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, claimed his client was positioned at Floyd’s legs and couldn’t see Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck. Still, Lane—who Gray said will be testifying in the trial—suggested they put Floyd into a hobble position, on his side. Chauvin denied the suggestion as well as two other suggestions by Lane that they roll Floyd over, Gray said. He described his client calling an ambulance and performing chest compressions on Floyd when it arrived. “Mr. Lane, from the beginning of the time that he came into contact with George Floyd until the time he walked out of that ambulance, he was totally concerned and did everything he could possibly do to help George Floyd,” Gray said.
Robert Paule, an attorney representing Thao, described Floyd’s death as a tragedy but said “a tragedy is not a crime.”
That will be for the jury to decide, and unfortunately, not one Black person was selected from the pool of potential jurors. The one Black man questioned as a possible juror was stricken when he said his “color” would prevent him from viewing the case in an unbiased way, The New York Times reported. Ten women and eight men, including six alternates, were seated as jurors on Thursday. One man and one woman appear to be Asian and the 16 other jurors are white.
“The lack of diversity is a reflection, at least in part, of the fact that the pool of jury prospects in a federal case is drawn from across the state, reaching into rural, whiter and more conservative regions,” journalist Tim Arango wrote. “The jurors in Mr. Chauvin’s trial, by contrast, came from the Minneapolis area, which is more racially mixed and more liberal than other areas of Minnesota.”
Chauvin’s jury consisted of three white men, six white women, three Black men, one Black woman, and two women with multiracial backgrounds.
Celebrated civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, referenced the need for a jury that is representative of the community in a statement with other Floyd family attorneys Tony Romanucci and Jeff Storms. “This trial will be another painful experience for the Floyd family, who must once again relive his grueling death in excruciating detail,” the attorneys said. “On behalf of the legal team and the family, we trust and expect that an impartial jury representative of the community will be seated to do this important work.”
On the first day of the trial covered by ABC-affiliated KSTP, prosecutors rolled almost 30 minutes of Lane’s body camera footage. Although live video isn’t allowed in federal courtrooms, the footage reportedly showed officers wrestling with Floyd, holding him on the ground, and ignoring pleas from witnesses to help. It also included moments in which Lane did chest compressions on Floyd and asked paramedics, “What do you need?”
Storms said during a news conference the Star Tribune covered on Monday that he expects the defense to not only continue blaming Chauvin but to continue blaming Floyd for the other officers’ actions. “I don’t know that any of us are surprised by it, but obviously we’re disappointed each time that there is an effort to assassinate George’s character after he himself was physically killed by officer Chauvin and his co-defendants,” Storms said.
Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, said during the news conference that he’s sick of watching his brother blamed for his own death. “Every time I look at TV or any social media site, everyday I see my brother, he’s always on trial. It’s never the police officers. It’s never their fault. My brother had the weight of four officers on him.”
Philonise said he watched officers roughly put handcuffs on his brother then later watched officers just place handcuffs on Chauvin and Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center police officer convicted in the death of Daunte Wright despite claims she was reaching for her Taser and accidentally shot Wright with a gun.
“It’s really ridiculous,” Philonise said, “but at the same time, this is something we must go to court for.”
Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew, said Monday was “very emotional” for him because it was the first time since the Chauvin trial that he was in the same room with men responsible for his uncle’s death. Williams said he had never seen witness video of Floyd’s death in its entirety. He would walk out of court to avoid seeing it, but he watched the body camera footage showed in the federal case.
“When you sit and think about nine minutes and 29 seconds, which is how long they kneeled on George. During the video, you can hear the officers clearly say he’s passed out, and at that point, each officer on the scene had the choice,” Williams said. “It’s against the law for them not to intervene when seeing another officer performing misconduct.”
RELATED: Judge bans firefighter and teen witness from testifying in cases of Derek Chauvin’s peers
RELATED: It’s no wonder police think it’s okay to joke about Black men dying: Courts keep protecting cops
RELATED: Derek Chauvin changes plea to guilty in federal case against him