Two ex-police officers to testify in own defence about George Floyd arrest

Former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao (left) and J. Alexander Kueng (right) arrive with attorney Thomas Plunkett (centre) at the US District Court in Minnesota on Jan 11, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA (REUTERS) - Two former Minneapolis police officers, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, told a US judge on Monday (Feb 14) they planned to testify in their own defence against federal charges that they violated Mr George Floyd's civil rights during a deadly 2020 arrest.

A lawyer for Thomas Lane, the third police officer on trial at the US District Court in St. Paul, had previously said Lane would also testify in his own defence, but told Judge Paul Magnuson on Monday that Lane was still considering his decision.

Derek Chauvin, the white police officer convicted at a separate state trial last year of murdering Mr Floyd, has already pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating the 46-year-old Black man's civil rights by failing to give medical aid.

A cellphone video of the dying, handcuffed Mr Floyd pleading for his life before falling motionless as Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes caused outrage in May 2020, spurring huge daily protests against racism and police brutality in cities around the world.

The teenager who made that video, Darnella Frazier, was the last witness called by prosecutors from the US Department of Justice's civil rights division before they rested their case on Monday after about three weeks of testimony.

She was in tears within a few moments of taking the stand, prompting the judge, who has tried to limit displays of emotion before the jury, to pause proceedings.

"I'm sorry, I can't do it, I'm sorry," she said about testifying, shaking.

Ms Frazier, now an 18-year-old student, returned to the stand later to say she started recording because it was plain to her that Floyd was in need of help.

"He just looked defeated on the ground," she said, echoing testimony she gave at Chauvin's state trial in Minneapolis last spring. "George Floyd repeated himself over and over he couldn't breathe. I asked the officer, 'How long do you have to hold down someone who's saying he couldn't breathe.'"

Prosecutors have argued that Thao, Kueng and Lane all had a duty to intervene to stop Chauvin from killing Mr Floyd.

They have all pleaded not guilty and will take turns to present their defence cases through their lawyers beginning on Tuesday.

Lawyers for Kueng and Lane have noted they were rookies only days out of what they argue was an inadequate training programme by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Lawyers for all three men have said they all sought to look out for Mr Floyd's medical needs but ultimately could not be held responsible for Chauvin's deadly conduct.

Prosecutors have called officials from the Minneapolis Police Department to testify that the trainees are told how it can be dangerous not to roll a restrained person on their side and that they must intervene if they see misconduct.

Chauvin is expected to be sentenced to more than two decades in prison, and his three former colleagues would face years in prison if convicted. They also face a separate state trial in June on charges of aiding and abetting Mr Floyd's murder.

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