Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane should stand trial as an accomplice to the murder of George Floyd because his actions during Floyd’s May 25 arrest meet the legal requirements for the charges against him, and jurors should be allowed to determine whether he is guilty, prosecutors argue in new legal filings.
Lane’s actions when he and three other former officers restrained Floyd showed that he recognized they were inflicting harm, and that the senior officer, Derek Chauvin, was violating police training and policies, prosecutors wrote in a brief made public Tuesday.
The prosecutors said that Lane continued to participate in the risky restraint even after Floyd complained that police were killing him.
The fact that Lane had less than a week of experience on the job is no excuse, they continued. “[F]or a host of important reasons, there is no free pass under state law for rookies who choose to disregard their training at the suggestion of a senior officer.”
And according to the motion submitted late Monday by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank and Neal Katyal, a special attorney for the state, Lane had extensive police training before he started the job.
Their comments were meant to refute a motion to dismiss the charges, filed in July by Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray. He noted that Lane had been on the job for four days when Floyd was killed, arguing that he bore no liability because he was deferring to Chauvin, a senior officer with 19 years of experience.
Gray noted that Lane had expressed concerns about Floyd’s struggles to breathe as the officers pinned him on his stomach in the street. Lane had asked Chauvin about rolling Floyd onto his side but was rebuffed, Gray argued.
“It’s not a case where he’s standing by watching another cop pound on somebody’s head,” Gray said in early July. “This is a case where my client twice — twice — asked if we should turn him over and the answer from [Chauvin] was no.”
Lane and former officer J. Alexander Kueng had responded to Cup Foods on a report that Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. They detained Floyd as Chauvin and former officer Tou Thao arrived as backup.
Lane, Kueng and Thao are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Chauvin is charged with one count each of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s arrest spiraled out of control when he refused to get into a police cruiser, saying he was claustrophobic. A struggle led to police pinning him to the ground. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes as Lane and Kueng helped restrain him.
Prosecutors seek to turn Lane’s words against him.
“Lane’s own comments at that time confirmed that he was aware that Chauvin was intentionally and unjustifiably causing substantial bodily harm to Floyd,” they argued.
In the span of a few minutes, they said, Lane had asked about rolling Floyd onto his side as he started to lose consciousness, remarked that Floyd was “passing out,” and repeated his question about rolling Floyd onto his side. Lane also asked Kueng if he could find Floyd’s pulse, they said.
Chauvin said no to turning Floyd the first time, but no one responded to Lane the second time, prosecutors said.
“Lane did nothing to challenge Chauvin’s answer,” they continued. “Not one thing. Instead, he remained in the same position, and continued to hold down Floyd’s legs with his hands.”
They noted that Kueng controlled Floyd’s sknees, pressed into his back and held onto his handcuffed left wrist, while Lane continued to hold his legs. Lane, Chauvin and Kueng continued to restrain Floyd even after he lost consciousness and after Kueng was unable to detect a pulse, prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors noted that while Thao kept bystanders at bay, he ignored their pleas to help Floyd.
The prosecutors argued that Lane knew Floyd was restrained in an “inherently dangerous” position, was unresponsive and, at some point, had no pulse.
Minneapolis police policy prohibits using neck restraints on people who are “passively resisting” or not resisting. It also requires officers to intervene when force is being used inappropriately, prosecutors said. They said Lane’s comments about rolling Floyd onto his side show that he remembered his training and that he knew the neck restraint was unjustified.
Before losing consciousness, Floyd told the officers he couldn’t breathe more than 20 times, called out for his deceased mother about a dozen times and pleaded with Chauvin, “I can’t breathe. Please, your knee in my neck.”
Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, has filed a motion to dismiss the charges as legally deficient.
Prosecutors have not yet responded formally, but in their motion in Lane’s case, they noted that Thao had continued to stand watch and rebuff bystanders as Floyd lay dying. At some point, an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter happened upon the scene and offered medical assistance.
Thao shouted, “Back off,” and Lane ordered the firefighter to get back “on the sidewalk,” the prosecutors wrote in the motion filed in Lane’s case. The officers also ignored her pleas for them to begin chest compressions on Floyd after they learned he had no pulse, they said.
A judge will hear arguments on Lane’s and Thao’s motions at a Sept. 11 hearing. A trial is scheduled for March 8.