George Floyd death: Ex-Minneapolis officers blame one another, seek separate trials

George Floyd died in police custody on May 25 after officer Derek Chauvin allegedly knelt on his neck for over eight minutes

                            George Floyd death: Ex-Minneapolis officers blame one another, seek separate trials
Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, Derek Chauvin, J Alexander Kueng (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office)

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: The attorneys for the ex-Minneapolis officers facing charges into the death of George Floyd are demanding separate trials for themselves as the four blame each other for the May 25 incident. However, the prosecution is opposing the plea, saying since the nature of the charges and proof are same for all four, “it is impossible to evaluate any individual Defendant’s conduct in a vacuum.”

The 46-year-old Floyd died in police custody after ex-officer Derek Chauvin allegedly knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Chauvin is facing second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter charges while J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao face charges for aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Chauvin along with Kueng, Lane, and Thao are set to appear before a court on Friday, September 11, for a hearing on numerous issues, including the prosecutor's request demanding a single trial for all of them. In addition, the court will also hear requests of the defense to move the trial away from Minneapolis. Defense will also request for the removal of the jury and keeping jurors anonymous.

In a court filing, prosecutors have demanded a joint trial, arguing: “Here, all four Defendants worked together to murder Floyd: Chauvin, Kueng, and Lane pinned Floyd face-down, while Thao stopped the crowd from intervening, enabling the other Defendants to maintain their positions. Defendants also discussed and coordinated their actions throughout the incident.” They also said that separate trials would probably leave Floyd’s family and witnesses traumatized. It would be more efficient and in the interest of justice to hold a common proceeding, the filing added as reported by The Los Angeles Times.

But the lawyers of the defendants are trying hard for four separate trials, reasoning that they would probably offer “antagonistic” defenses. Also, they said that proof against one defendant could affect another officer’s right to a fair trial in not a positive way.

However, this blame game among officers has been happening for months. Lane and Kueng’s lawyers have claimed that the two were rookies with no authority and were just following the orders of Chauvin. Bob Paule, Thao’s attorney, has tried to claim that his client was not actually involved, his job was “absolutely distinct” from the trio since he was controlling the crowd that time.

On the other hand, Eric Nelson, attorney of Chauvin, has argued that prosecutors need to prove first that his client’s intention was to assault the African-American man. The lawyer also said that prosecutors must provide evidence that Kueng, Lane and Thao knew of Chauvin’s plan before it happened. “The other defendants are clearly saying that, if a crime was committed, they neither knew about it nor assisted in it. They blame Chauvin,” he added.

Besides, Chauvin has also blamed the other three officers. On behalf of Chauvin, Nelson wrote that Lane and Kueng were the first officers who met Floyd before his client and Thao arrived. They were the ones who called for a paramedic since they believed the Black man was “on something”, but failed to raise the call to one of more urgency or give medical assistance. “Instead, they struggled to subdue Mr Floyd and force him into their squad car, likely exacerbating his condition considerably,” Nelson noted while saying Chauvin has a valid reason to argue that Floyd died because of Lane and Kueng’s inaction.

“If EMS had arrived just three minutes sooner, Mr Floyd may have survived. If Kueng and Lane had chosen to de-escalate instead of struggle, Mr Floyd may have survived. If Kueng and Lane had recognized the apparent signs of an opioid overdose and rendered aid, such as administering naloxone, Mr Floyd may have survived,” the attorney added.

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