George Floyd

Did These Three Officers 'Willfully' Deprive George Floyd of His Constitutional Rights?

Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao are charged with federal crimes for failing to stop Derek Chavin from killing Floyd.


Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter last April for killing George Floyd by pinning him facedown to the pavement for more than nine minutes, an incident that triggered nationwide protests. Chauvin, who was sentenced to 270 months in prison after those convictions, pleaded guilty in December to violating 18 USC 242 by depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights under color of law. The three officers who were with Chauvin during Floyd's arrest in May 2020 are now on trial in federal court, charged with violating the same statute by failing to intervene or render medical aid.

In opening statements yesterday, the prosecution and the defense presented dueling portraits of three men who either callously disregarded Floyd's pleas for help or understandably deferred to a superior officer in a volatile and potentially dangerous situation they were unable to handle on their own. Yesterday and today, the jury heard testimony from FBI forensic media examiner Kimberly Meline, who presented videos of Floyd's arrest and the aftermath, and Christopher Martin, the cashier at the store where Floyd allegedly used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes, the incident that ultimately led to his death.

The challenge for federal prosecutors is proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers not only neglected their legal duties but did so "willfully." Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, both rookies at the time, helped restrain Floyd as he repeatedly complained that he could not breathe. Lane held Floyd's legs, while Keung applied pressure to his back. Officer Tou Thao was tasked with managing a group of bystanders who were increasingly alarmed by Chauvin's treatment of Floyd, warning that his life was in danger.

"For more than nine minutes, each of the three defendants made a conscious choice over and over again not to act," federal prosecutor Samantha Trepel told the jury. "They chose not to intervene and stop Chauvin as he killed a man slowly in front of their eyes on a public street in broad daylight."

As Chauvin's lawyer did during his state trial, the defense attorneys urged the jury to consider factors that were not captured in the horrifying videos of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck. Kueng and Lane had unsuccessfully tried to force an agitated Floyd into the back seat of their patrol car after arresting him for using a counterfeit bill. "He was all muscle," said Earl Gray, Lane's lawyer. "These two rookies simply could not get this fellow in the back seat and were clearly doing something wrong. So what does Chauvin do? He takes over and he grabs the guy and he puts him on the ground."

Gray suggested that Floyd, who seemed to be intoxicated, was exhibiting "superhuman strength"—a claim that Chauvin's defense also deployed. Former police officer Barry Brodd, testifying as a use-of-force expert during Chauvin's trial, averred that "drug-influenced" suspects "don't feel pain" and "may have superhuman strength"—an old canard with racist roots that police tend to drag out when they are accused of using excessive force.

Kueng's lawyer, Thomas Plunkett, emphasized that he was working just the third shift of his career that day, when he was "confronted with a complex, rapidly unfolding set of circumstances." Plunkett argued that Kueng had received "inadequate training" and suggested that he was in no position to question Chauvin, his training officer.

Thao's lawyer, Robert Paule, argued that the officer, who had been employed by the Minneapolis Police Department for about 11 years, had his hands full as "a human traffic cone" standing between his colleagues and a group of six to 10 witnesses. In Trepel's telling, the outraged reactions of those onlookers, far from an extenuating circumstance, showed that the defendants should have known Chauvin's behavior was beyond the pale. "After Mr. Floyd lost the ability to speak, the people on the sidewalk stood up for him," Trepel said. "They understood just by seeing his body go limp, listening to his words and then listening to his silence that, unless somebody changed what was happening, he would die."

While Thao may not have had as clear a view of what was happening as Kueng and Lane did, his responses to the bystanders' objections made it seem as if he did not really care. He initially appeared to make light of the situation, saying, "This is why you don't do drugs, kids." Thao echoed the other officers' false assurances about Floyd's condition, saying, "He's talking, so he's fine."

A man who said he had trained at the police academy repeatedly questioned that judgment and berated Thao for not intervening: "That's bullshit, bro. You're fucking stopping his breathing right there, bro….You're a bum for that, bro." A woman who identified herself as a Minneapolis firefighter told Thao, "You should check on him… He's not responsive." Thao, the "human traffic cone," disregarded all such warnings, ordering the bystanders who stepped into the street back onto the sidewalk.

Lane twice suggested that, consistent with what police are taught about the risk of "positional asphyxia" during prolonged prone restraints, Floyd should be turned from his stomach onto his side. "The medical aid that would have saved George Floyd's life was as simple as that—turning George Floyd on his side so his heart kept beating," Trepel said.

Lane's suggestions, which Chauvin rejected, imply that Lane recognized Floyd was in danger, although they also indicate that Lane was more concerned about Floyd's welfare than Chauvin was. By contrast, Trepel portrayed Kueng, based on the video record, as idly distracted by gravel in the tire of a police car as Floyd begged for his life.

The extent and nature of the defendants' indifference are relevant in deciding whether they acted "willfully" in the context of 18 USC 242. In the 1945 case Screws v. United States, the Supreme Court held that willfulness requires either that the defendant had "a specific intent" to deprive someone of his constitutional rights or that he acted with "open defiance or in reckless disregard of a constitutional requirement." Federal appeals courts applying that standard have reached somewhat different conclusions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, for example, has said willfully means "the act was committed voluntarily and purposely with the specific intent to do something the law forbids"—i.e., "with a bad purpose either to disobey or to disregard the law." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, by contrast, approved instructions saying jurors could "find that a defendant acted with the required specific intent even if you find that he had no real familiarity with the Constitution or with the particular constitutional right involved." A 2020 report from the Congressional Research Service notes that "the Supreme Court's interpretation of the willfulness requirement has resulted in what some view as a significant hurdle to bringing Section 242 claims."

In addition to the federal charges, Kueng, Lane, and Thao face state charges of aiding and abetting Chauvin's crimes, which may be easier to prove. After the state charges were filed, Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, noted that they are "legally valid under Minnesota law" but "rely on some fringe doctrines of accomplice liability." Those doctrines, he added, "have long been criticized by progressive reformers" because they "create expansive strict liability for minor participants in group crimes."

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60 responses to “Did These Three Officers 'Willfully' Deprive George Floyd of His Constitutional Rights?

  1. Ashli Babbitt had her rights denied.

    1. I shouted out,
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      1. Good response.

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        2. Thank you Moderation4ever!

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            -Desperately Seeking Horses, Men, or ANYTHING, in Fort Worth,
            Yours Truly,
            R Mac / Mary Stack / Tulpa / Mary’s Period / “.” / Satan

            1. Dumb faggot is still dumb.

              1. ᛋᛋqrlsy really is an unapologetically fascist piece of shit.

        4. Without having read the response, I can guarantee it was not a good response. At all. To anything. Ever.

          1. Hey Damned-And-Sick! How is your fascist SCHEME coming along? I mean, the one to FORCE people to buy Reason Magazines?

      2. ᛋᛋqrlsy One, Reichsführer of the Sqrlsstaffel, hails poor Brian Sicknick as his very own Horst Wessel, but hates Ashley Babbit as another Van der Lubbe.

        It's all part of ᛋᛋqrlsy's Big Lie.

        1. Sympathy for the ᛋᛋqrlsy

          I shouted out,
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          When after all,
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          High on crank,
          Held a Woke rank,
          When the BLM-riots raged,
          And old Biden stank!

          Pleased to meet you
          Hope you guess my name, (Melvin)
          Ah, what's puzzling you
          Is the stupidity of my game, oh yeah

          1. Don’t fear the revolt!

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            Here but now they’re gone
            Horst Wessel and Ashli Babbs
            Are together in eternity
            (Horst Wessel and Ashli Babbitt)


            Hopefully Saint Babbitt, in the Great Beyond the Beyond, is looking benevolently down upon the neglectful Reason writers, and, in Her Mercy, She will forgive them!
            In the meantime, perhaps we faithful Reasonoid commenters can make up for the shortcomings of the Reason writers! Here, below, I give you a sample of GREAT, True Devotion to Saint Babbitt, as written by a Devout And Respectful fellow Reasonoid commenter!

            Poor Babbitt. An innocent tourist shot by a cop for no reason while peacefully milling about the Capital. It’s the worst police shooting that ever happened. Ever. Compared to choking people, suffocating them, beating them to death with fists, this is the absolute most egregious action by police to have ever happened in the known history of the universe.
            But she will remain in our thoughts. Before long we’ll erect a statue in her honor. Saint Babbitt. May she look after peaceful tourists everywhere.

            1. Kill yourself.

              1. Vulgarly, Insanely, Inanely-Mad SheMale, drinking Vulgarly, Insanely-Mad Kool-Aid in a spiraling vortex of darkness, cannot or will not see the Light… It’s a VERY sad song! Kinda like this…

                He’s a real Kool-Aid Man,
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                A helpful book is to be found here: M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil

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                1. *uses "sheeple" unironically*
                  It's always weird when trailer trash lefties like ᛋᛋqrlsy think that they're better than common people.

                  Also, M. Scott Peck is going to haunt your lying ass for using his book as a cover for your devilry.

              2. You first.

                1. You forgot to switch socks you dumb fuck.

                2. You should really join ᛋᛋqrlsy, ᛋᛋhrike. You two goosestepping fascists offing yourselves would definitely be a mitzvah.

                  1. MammaryBahnFuhrer (the Self-Proclaimed Christian Theology Expert) is now deciding who should live, and who should die, via suicide! You got Chapter and Verse on that, Oh Great Queen of the Internet Cesspools? Or are You now become Jesus-God?

    2. Cops do almost nothing to prevent crimes or solve problems with criminals, so getting rid of them is the best thing to do.and the following will at least keep them from killing people just for the fun of it, which is EXACTLY what they did to Floyd: Put hardened criminals in prison for life with no parole.

  2. Betteridge's law of headlines strikes again.

  3. When you are dealing with a person life there is not much leeway for errors. I very much emphasize with the rookie officers, but they let a man die when they should have stopped it from happening. They had nine minutes to act. They had a crowd including knowledge people telling them George Floyd needed help. I think the best thing is a conviction and a sentence that recognizes the difficulty these officers faced.

    1. How were they going to stop a drug OD?

      1. Couldn't have hurt if they stopped the neck pressure earlier.
        Sort of like if you stop when you've hit a pedestrian, even if they died instantly, it goes better on you than if you hit and run and turn yourself in later (when you are sober?).

        1. Even the prosecutors admitted it wasn't on his neck but shoulder blade day 2....

          1. You expect these liars to ever admit a fact?

      2. Although the drugs in Gerge Floyd's system did not help, keeping him prone on his belly with a knee on his neck was the the direct cause of death, not a drug overdose.

        In Dallas a few years ago, Tony Tipta was proned out on his belly with a cop's knee in his back. He stopped moving at 9 minutes, went limp at 12 minutes, and when the EMTs arrived at 14 minutes he was pronounced dead in the ambulance.

        Have someone lay you out prone on your belly and put a knee to your back or neck. You slowly suffocate. You may be able to get enough air to compain "I can't breath", but you can't get enough air to stay concious or even live, even if you have had no drugs or alcohol.

        As soon as the subject is compliant you are supposed to roll them up on their side so they can breathe normally. Leaving them prone on their belly with a weight on their neck or back will kill them slowly.

        1. Was there any bruising on his neck?

        2. Not according to any of the coroner's reports. All state he died of a cardiac arrest. The original report attributed it to drugs in his system. Meth, fentanyl, and others. The coroner only changed the report after the video and family coroner report.

          I swear some people didn't watch the trial.

          The drugs were more than enough to cause a cardiac event as his first report stated. Plus there was massive fluid in his lungs per the report, not caused from positioning but pointing to a drug reaction. He first discussed not breathing while placed in the car.

          1. Correct. Floyd quite possibly died of a drug overdose. He was complaining of trouble breathing before he was even restrained.

            Restraint might have been contributory but likely would not have been lethal without lethal amounts of drugs in Floyd's system.

        3. He said I can't breath while he was still in the car

        4. Floyd was removed from the police vehicle at his own request, because of the physical and emotional distress of the drugs he had ingested.

      3. Yes, officers are trained first responders with a duty to intervene in a drug overdose. While there is no evidence that was the primary problem, they had the antidote on their utility belt, and the training to use it.

        1. He had multiple drugs in his system. Not just one.

        2. Also I saw zero reports they even had the opiod recovery drug. Do you have a cite? Ironically the ambulance was delayed due to the crowd. The ambulance had been called early in the confrontation. Should they be charged with willful endangerment?

        3. Correct. Floyd quite possibly died of a drug overdose. He was complaining of trouble breathing before he was even restrained.

          Restraint might have been contributory but likely would not have been lethal without lethal amounts of drugs in Floyd's system.

          1. Point, but Chauvin was physically in contact with Floyd while he died and didn't even notice for several minutes. Holding someone in a restraint like that carries additional responsibility. Chauvin neglected that responsibility and missed the chance of either letting up, possibly saving Floyd's life, or immediately rendering aid when he stopped breathing (details depending on whether the drugs were enough on their own to kill him or if the restraint was significantly contributory). Since he was negligent in his duty to monitor the situation, that falls under Manslaughter 2.

    2. Chauvin was an asshole, and these two rookie cops deferred to him. One of the rookie cops attempted CPR, the only person on-scene to do so.

      Chauvin's verdict was deserved, even if I think he was overcharged. I don't think I can say the same for these officers. The one officer who wasn't even looking at him couldn't know his condition because he's focused on the crowd, and trusting the officers behind him aren't committing an active homicide.

      1. Yeah, Chauvin was definitely negligent. The conviction for murder was insane and based on, from what I can tell, no evidence whatsoever that would indicate he intended to kill Floyd. However, he should have noticed when he was having trouble or when he stopped breathing. He was actually touching the guy. The manslaughter 2 charge is definitely warranted.

        However, for the others, I don't see a counterpoint to the idea that they trusted their colleague who was physically in contact with the prisoner to monitor him while they dealt with the crowd. It's not like they stood by while he shot him. Even if the hold was outside the norm, it's not normally dangerous, so saying they had a duty to intervene is holding police to an impossible standard of omniscience.

  4. By the way, does anyone have the counterfeit twenty Floyd was passing off? I'm curious if he just made a Xerox.

    1. I am open to the possibility that George Floyd got stuck with a counterfeit bill passed off to him as legit by someone else, like most people who get caught when the clerk uses the test pen on cash like looks off.

      1. If I remember correctly he was handed it by his dealer and he knew it was fake.

  5. As long as qualified immunity, taxpayer-paid settlements, and the Blue Line Gang Code insulate bad cops from the consequences of their actions, policing will never improve.

    Anytime police officers can be held personally accountable for the bad shit that they have done is fine with me.

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      1. You should have looked at the date before you posted that article, retard. It was proven to be bullshit early last summer.
        You'd think after being burned so many times by phony stories you might have learned something.
        But no. You're too retarded.

        1. But Your debunking has already BEEN debunked, Oh Queen of the Internet Cesspools! That is ALL that I need to say, to debunk You! NO citation(s) needed! Because You are of the WRONG TRIBE!


    3. Counting phony votes twice will get exactly the same result as counting phony votes three times.
      Everyone has been calling for an audit into the veracity of ballots. Particularly the ones that definitely look fake. Not a recount.

      Of course you and ReichSqrlser Squobbels know this, you're just pretending that it's about recounts instead of audits. But I don't know who you two idiots (or Vice) think that you're actually tricking.

      1. Audits don't accomplish anything, either, because there are no consequences to failing an audit. For example, in 2016 the Green Party requested a recount in Michigan. (This could only have been an attempt to help Hilary, because no recount could have moved the Green Party candidate higher than #4.) That recount began with an audit of the boxes of ballots - nothing complicated, nothing that would have detected fraudulent ballots if they were competently brought in on election day, but just a check that the ballot boxes were sealed, the seals were unbroken, and that the # of ballots written on the seal matched the # inside. 26% of Detroit's ballot boxes failed this.

        And _nothing_ happened. Unverifiable ballots weren't thrown out of the recount, which finally did not happen. Election officials weren't fired. The same people counted the ballots in 2020. The only difference was that this time, it somehow became acceptable to find more ballots after midnight, and after it became clear how many more votes were needed for Biden/Harris to win.

  7. Fuck George Floyd.

    1. Too late! He's already been fucked ass bad ass it gets!

  8. While I agree that the theory of accomplice liability is often abused in overbroad ways, this is the wrong case to fix that doctrine. Cops and prosecutors should have reined it in long before they discovered they were personally at risk from it.

  9. George Floyd was a covid death, end of story.

  10. They have a pretty good defense to anyone who isn't blindly angry. "I was monitoring the crowd, trusting my colleague to monitor the suspect whom he was in direct contact with and responsible for".

    After all, if Chavin had been properly monitoring Floyd, none of this would have happened. Even if we accept the argument "if he hadn't had all those drugs, the restraint wasn't deadly and he would be alive", which does seem to be a fair assessment of the situation, Chavin was physically in contact with Floyd as he died, and not monitoring him while he was being restrained at the very makes him negligent. However, how can distracted cops confronted with an angry crowd confirm that Chavin was not monitoring the the guy he is literally touching?

    I do not see a way around the defense that they were relying on their colleague to restrain and monitor the suspect who had been acting violent while they focused their attention on the crowd.

    Now, nothing about these prosecutions has been reasonable or expected so far, so I wouldn't put money on this prediction, but from a matter of legal principles, this does not seem like a winnable prosecution.

  11. Courts have found again and again that police have no positive duty to protect the public. For better or worse, that precedent clearly applies here as well

Comments are closed.