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Crime News Black Lives Matter

3 Former Officers Will Testify At Their Trial Over George Floyd's Death

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, the former Minneapolis police offices charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights, confirmed that they will testify in their own defense.

By The Associated Press
J Alexander Kueng Thomas Lane Tou Thao

All three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights will testify as the defense lays out its case following nearly three weeks of prosecution testimony. 

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are broadly charged with violating Floyd’s constitutional rights while acting under government authority as Officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee onto Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed, facedown and pleading for air. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs while Thao kept bystanders back.

All three are accused of depriving Floyd of medical care. 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.

The defense began presenting witnesses on Tuesday after Lane told the judge that he planned to testify. Thao and Kueng had said before court ended Monday that they would testify.

The prosecution rested its case Monday after calling to the stand doctors, police officers and bystanders, including the teenager who recorded widely seen video of the killing. 

Darnella Frazier, who was 16 when Floyd was killed, was the last witness to testify for the prosecution. Frazier, who was given a special citation by the Pulitzer Prizes for her video of the killing, said she knew Floyd needed medical care when he became unresponsive. 

“Over time, he kind of just became weaker and eventually just stopped making sounds overall,” she said.

Moments after she took the stand, Frazier, who is now 18, began crying, saying: “I can’t do it. I’m sorry.” The judge, who has been trying to keep emotional testimony out of the trial, took a short break before resuming. When Frazier came back, she talked about witnessing Floyd on the ground with Chauvin’s knee on his neck. 

“It looked like he was very uncomfortable and he kept saying, `I can’t breathe,’” she said, adding that Thao looked like he was protecting and patrolling the area. When prosecutor LeeAnn Bell asked what it appeared to her that Thao might need to protect. She said Floyd “was the only one who needed protection at that moment.” 

She added: “I didn’t see George Floyd resist at all. The only thing I saw him do was really try to find comfort in his situation … try to breathe and get more oxygen.”

Earlier Monday, a use-of-force expert testified that the officers should have intervened. The testimony from Tim Longo, the police chief at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, was peppered with emphatic objections, numerous warnings from the judge that the information was repetitive, and combative cross-examination.

Gray, Lane’s attorney, 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 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. 

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.