Friday, February 3, 2023

Explainer: Federal charges against 3 cops in Floyd’s death

MINNEAPOLIS ( Associated Press) — Three former officers who accompanied Derek Chauvin during the arrest that led to the death of George Floyd face federal trial this week on charges they violated a black man’s civil rights. J. Jury selection in the federal case against Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao will begin on Thursday.

What happened?

Floyd, 46, died on May 20, 2020, after Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and pinned him to the street for 9 1/2 minutes as he gasped for air. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane lowered Floyd’s legs. Thao prevented the audience from intervening.

federal charge

Kueng, Lane and Thao are broadly accused of deliberately depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under “the color of the law” or government authority. Chauvin pleaded guilty to one count of Floyd’s civil rights violations and will not be prosecuted along with his former associates.

Thao and Kueng have been charged with willfully infringing on Floyd’s right to be freed from undue seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin. The indictment says they knew what Chauvin was doing and that Floyd was handcuffed, irresistible and ultimately unresponsive. It is not clear why the lane holding Floyd’s foot is not mentioned in that calculation, but evidence suggests that he asked twice whether Floyd should be turned on his side.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are all accused of deliberately depriving Floyd of his liberty without due process, specifically denying him the right to be released from an officer’s willful indifference to his medical needs. The indictment states that three men saw Floyd need medical care and that they knowingly failed to assist him.

In both cases, it was alleged that the actions of the authorities resulted in the death of Floyd.

How is it different from the state case?

The three officers have also been charged in the state court with both aiding and abetting the murder and murder.

State prosecutors must prove that officers assisted in the murder or manslaughter of Chauvin, while federal prosecutors must show that he violated Floyd’s rights, essentially failed to intervene or provide medical aid. .

Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and now a professor at the University of St. Thomas’ School of Law, drew this distinction: the state case is about what the officials did, and the federal case is about what they didn’t.

State testing is scheduled to begin from June 13.

rare cases

To make federal charges in police deaths, prosecutors must believe that an officer acted under “the color of the law” or governmental authority, and deliberately deprived someone of their constitutional rights, including unreasonable seizures or Including the right to be free from use. undue force. This is a high legal standard; An accident, wrongful judgment or simple negligence on the part of the officer is not sufficient to support federal charges.

Essentially, prosecutors must prove that officers knew what they were doing was wrong but did it nonetheless.

Phil Turner, another former federal prosecutor, said that historically, federal charges have been brought after a state case failed. He pointed to the police beating of Rodney King in 1991, as an example. After Los Angeles officials were acquitted in state court, federal charges were brought “because the state system failed and it was clear to everyone that this was a miscarriage of justice,” Turner said. Two of the four officers were eventually convicted in federal court.

Most high-profile fatal shootings by police in recent years have not resulted in federal charges, although activists have called for them. One exception is the case of Michael Slager, a white police officer in South Carolina who shot Walter Scott in the back as an unarmed, 50-year-old black man fled a 2015 traffic stop.

Slager’s state murder case ended in 2016 with a hung jury and wrongful trial. A year later, she pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights; Prosecutors dropped state murder charges. Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Over the past 20 years, several corrections officers have been convicted of violating the civil rights of prisoners who have died after being denied medical care – sometimes after assault. The allegation of denial of medical care is the same as counting all three former Minneapolis officers in Floyd’s death.

What sentence can they face?

Violations of federal civil rights that result in death are punishable by life imprisonment or up to death, but those sentences are extremely rare. Federal sentencing guidelines rely on complex formulas that indicate officers will get little if convicted.


Watch the Associated Press’s full coverage of George Floyd’s death here:

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