Saturday, February 24

In closing arguments, prosecutor says officers stood by as Chauvin slowly killed George Floyd ‘in broad daylight on a public street’


On the final morning of the civil rights trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich described to jurors how three former Minneapolis police officers watched and listened but did not help as Derek Chauvin killed a man “in broad daylight on a public street.”

The officers knew Floyd needed help, said Sertich. They were trained that every second counted when it came to saving an unresponsive man’s life. They had the training and ability to help him.

Instead, Sertich said, Officer Tou Thao “mocked” Floyd, remarking to a group of bystanders that this is “why you don’t do drugs.” Thomas Lane suggested turning Floyd over, which Sertich said proves he recognized the medical emergency. But when Chauvin denied the request, Lane did nothing more to help the man. J. Alexander Kueng held Floyd’s legs and “causally picked gravel out of the tire in front of him, and laughed” when Chauvin said the dying man was talking a lot for someone who claimed he couldn’t breathe, she said.

“They chose not to aid George Floyd, as the window into which Mr. Floyd’s life could have been saved slammed shut,” she said. “This is a crime. The defendants are guilty as charged.”

Sertich is the first to give closing arguments in the trial on Tuesday. Robert Paule, attorney Kueng, was expected to offer his final remarks in the afternoon, followed by the other two. The arguments follow nearly a month of of testimony, which included each of the three officers taking the witness stand in their own defense.

Sertich asked jurors to reject a key defense argument that the officers were incapable of telling Chauvin, the senior officer on scene, to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck as he “slow-motion” cut off the man’s oxygen. She said the bystanders who cried out for them to intervene on the “violent crime” show this to be a false narrative.

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“Those civilians didn’t have a badge,” she said. “They didn’t have other officers who could back them up. They knew these officers they were watching had more power than they did, more authority than they did, and could cause trouble for them. And they still insisted.”

In a nearly two-hour statement, Sertich broke down each element of the civil rights law, including how the officers knew they had an obligation to help the man in their custody and “willfully” failed to do so. “These defendants knew what was happening, and contrary to their training, contrary to common sense, contrary to basic human decency, they did nothing to stop Derek Chauvin or help George Floyd,” she said. “You know it, because you’ve seen it.”

Parsing the politics of the high-profile case, Sertich said Minneapolis depends every day on the good cops who protect public safety.

“This case isn’t about those officers,” she said.

She said it’s not an acceptable defense to say they failed to allowed a man to die because they didn’t want to upset a senior colleague.

“It’s what we expect from them as a community, because that’s what the constitution demands: To act,” she said.

Sertich said the three officers lied several times on the stand, such as when Kueng said he couldn’t hear the bystanders on the sidewalk pleading for them to help Floyd, or when Thao claimed he felt unsafe, but then turned his back to the crowd.

“The reason a person lies is because a person knows he has something to hide,” she said. “It’s evidence of willfulness.”

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Chauvin, who was convicted of murder in state court last year, is serving a 22-year prison sentence and pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges.

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