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Three ex-officers found guilty on federal charges in George Floyd killing

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Show caption A memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photograph: Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters George Floyd Three ex-officers found guilty on federal charges in George Floyd killing Trio of former Minneapolis officers found guilty of violating the civil rights of Floyd, murdered by Derek Chauvin in May 2020 Associated Press Thu 24 Feb 2022 22.37 GMT Share on Facebook

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A jury has convicted three former Minneapolis police officers of violating George Floyd’s civil rights.

Floyd, a Black man, was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin. His video-taped death triggered widespread outrage and sparked anti-police brutality protests that spread across the US and the world.

Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were charged with depriving Floyd of his right to medical care when Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes as the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed and lying face down on the street on 25 May 2020. Thao and Kueng were also charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin.

Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, called the verdicts “accountability”, but added: “There can never be justice because I can never get George back.”

And Floyd’s cousin Brandon Williams said he hoped the verdicts would change laws and policies to “protect people from these situations”. He also said the outcome “sends a message that says, if you murder or use excessive or deadly force, there’s consequences that follow.”

Chauvin was convicted of murder last year in state court and pleaded guilty in December in the federal case.

Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back. Kueng and Lane both said they deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene. Thao testified that he relied on the other officers to care for Floyd’s medical needs as his attention was elsewhere.

Lane is white, Kueng is Black and Thao is Hmong American.

Conviction of a federal civil rights violation that results in death is punishable by life in prison or even death, but such sentences are extremely rare. The former officers will remain free on bond pending sentencing.

During the month-long trial, prosecutors sought to show that the officers violated their training, including when they failed to move Floyd or give him CPR. Prosecutors argued that Floyd’s condition was so serious that even bystanders without basic medical training could see he needed help.

The defense said their training was inadequate and that the officers deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene.

Prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that the three officers “chose to do nothing” as Chauvin squeezed the life out of Floyd. Defense attorneys countered that the officers were too inexperienced, weren’t trained properly and did not willfully violate Floyd’s rights.

All 12 members of the jury of eight women and four men appeared to be white, although the court has not released demographics such as race or age.

That was a sharp contrast to the jury that deliberated the state murder case against Chauvin. That jury was half white and half non-white.

The federal jury pool was selected from throughout the state, which includes areas much more conservative and less diverse than the Minneapolis area from which Chauvin’s jury was drawn. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter, and later pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge.

Chauvin and Thao went to the scene to help rookies Kueng and Lane after they responded to a call that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Floyd struggled with officers as they tried to put him in a police SUV.

Thao watched bystanders and traffic as Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs.

The jurors were not sequestered from outside influences that could sway their opinion, which is sometimes done by having them stay in hotels during deliberations. They were allowed to watch videos from the scene and view other evidence as much as they wanted during deliberations.

Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.

• This article was amended on 25 February 2022. Contrary to an earlier version, Thao and Kueng – rather than Thao and Lane – faced an additional charge of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin.