Jurors began deliberations just before 10 a.m. Wednesday in the federal case against three former Minneapolis officers accused of depriving George Floyd of his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
Floyd died under police restraint on May 25, 2020, on the street outside Cup Foods in South Minneapolis after police were called to the scene on a report of a fake $20 bill that he used to buy cigarettes.
Former officer Derek Chauvin, who was captured on bystander video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes, pleaded guilty in December to federal civil rights violations. He was convicted of murder in Hennepin County District Court in May and is serving a state sentence of more than 22 years.
The federal trial of three officers on the scene along with Chauvin began with opening statements on Jan. 24. Closing arguments were given Tuesday with Judge Paul Magnuson reading jury instructions Wednesday morning before sending the jurors back to begin closed-door discussions.
Former officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with failing to intervene on Floyd’s behalf. Thao, Kueng and Thomas Lane are accused of failing to provide medical aid to Floyd while Chauvin was using unreasonable force.
Thao is the officer who kept bystanders on the sidewalk. Kueng held Floyd’s mid-section while Lane held his legs. Lane and Kueng were first to approach Floyd in his vehicle outside the store that day. Chauvin and Thao showed up minutes later as Lane and Kueng struggled to get Floyd in the back of a squad vehicle.
In his instructions, Magnuson told jurors they must view the evidence in light of what a “reasonable officer at the scene” would have done “without the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.”
He told them they must consider whether the decision to use force on Floyd was reasonable under circumstances that were tense and rapidly evolving.
It violates the Constitution for a police officer to fail to intervene if he had knowledge of the force and an ability to do so, Magnuson said.
On each count, if the jurors find Floyd guilty, they must answer a second question: did the officers’ actions cause Floyd’s death.
To reach a verdict, all jurors must agree. The 12 jurors in this case are all white. Eight are women and four are men. Two each are from Hennepin, Ramsey and Olmsted counties. One juror each is from the following counties: Anoka, Blue Earth, Washington, Jackson, Nicollet and Scott.