4th cop convicted in George Floyd killing
Tou Thao becomes the fourth, final former Minneapolis police officer convicted on state charges in the killing George Floyd
MINNEAPOLIS (PNS)—Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill on April 3, found ex-police Minneapolis police officer Tuo Thao guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter.
Thao is already serving a federal sentence of three-and-a-half years for violating Floyd's civil rights, and will be sentenced in the state case on Aug. 7. The other three officers at the scene on May 25, 2020—Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Derek Chauvin—have all been convicted and sentenced in state and federal cases, with Chauvin serving a 22-and-a-half-year sentence for murder.
Police mug shots of Tou Thao at during indictment proceedings.
Thao was standing off to the side, holding back bystanders on E. 38th Street and Chicago Avenue while Lane, Kueng and Chauvin were holding Floyd down on May 25, 2020. Chauvin had his knee pinned into Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.
Cahill wrote in his 177-page decision that Thao could've acted in the situation to prevent a death from happening.
"Like the bystanders, Thao could see Floyd's life slowly ebbing away as the restraint continued. Yet Thao made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd's death: he held back the concerned bystanders and even prevented an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter from rendering the medical aid Floyd so desperately needed," he said.
Cahill also mentioned how Thao did not want to use a "hobble" from Lane's and Kueng's police car that "would have saved Floyd's life" if properly employed.
"Thao's stated reason? 'If we hobble him, the sergeant is going to have to come out' to complete paperwork for a 'use of force review' mandated by MPD policy whenever the hobble device was deployed," Cahill said.
"The short of it: Tou Thao did not want to follow the proper protocol and the work it would entail. George Floyd died as a result."
Minnesota Atty. General Keith Ellison, whose office led in the prosecution, said in a state- ment Tuesday that more change needs to follow. He mentioned the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has not yet passed in the US Senate after it was introduced in 2021 and passed in the House of Representatives.
"While we have now reached the end of the prosecution of Floyd’s murder, it is not behind us. There is much more that prosecutors, law-enforcement leaders, rank-and-file officers, elected officials, and community can do to bring about true justice in law enforcement and true trust and safety in all communities. To begin with, Congress must act: almost three years after his death, Congress has still not passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," Ellison said. "That must change, now."
During his federal sentencing, Thao heavily quoted scripture in a 23-minute statement, claiming the case was corrupt and saying the legal process caused him "great distress," the Star Tribune reported.
In the state cases, Lane was convicted of aiding and abetting 2nd-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison; Kueng was convicted of aiding and abetting 2nd-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years. Chauvin was found guilty of 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter and sentenced to over 22 years in prison.
Minnesota, Tou, Thao, George, Floyd, Minneapolis, MN, Peter, Cahill
Appeals Court Upholds Derek Chauvin prison conviction
Public News Service
BY ANDY MONSERUD, Contributing Writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN)—Minnesota’s appeals court roundly panned former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s appeal of his murder conviction Monday morning, rejecting several procedural challenges to his widely viewed trial for the murder of George Floyd.
Chauvin was convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in April of 2021, just under a year after a video showing him kneeling on the neck and back of Floyd went viral and sparked civil unrest around the United States and the globe.
The former officer and his attorney William Mohrman of the conservative firm Mohrman, Kaardal and Erickson raised a number of issues with Chauvin’s trial, including Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill’s repeated denials of motions to change the trial’s venue, his handling of claims of juror misconduct, his exclusion of certain pieces of evidence and his crafting of jury instructions.
They found success on none of those issues at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“Police officers undoubtedly have a challenging, difficult and sometimes dangerous job,” Judge Peter Reyes wrote in the conclusion of the court’s decision. “However, no one is above the law. When they commit a crime, they must be held accountable just as those individuals that they lawfully apprehend…. Chauvin crossed that line here when he used unreasonable force on Floyd.”
Chauvin’s appeal invoked a number of issues first raised by attorney Eric Nelson during trial, notably Cahill’s repeated denials of requests for a change of venue despite substantial publicity of the case and his denial of a request for a so-called Schwartz hearing on potential juror misconduct after one juror allegedly failed to disclose participation in a 2020 march on Washington, D.C., honoring Martin Luther King Jr. in his juror questionnaire and another juror allegedly expressed concerns for her safety related to the trial’s results.
Reyes found those arguments lacking, noting that Mohrman had alluded to, but not addressed, these issues in his briefing and that the juror’s participation in the March on Washington did not contradict his “no” answer to the question of whether he had participated in “any of the demonstrations or marches against police brutality that took place in Minneapolis after [Floyd’s death].”
“Chauvin was given 18 peremptory strikes during the jury selection and had three remaining, which he could have used to prevent juror 52 from serving,” Reyes pointed out. “He did not do so.” Refusing a Schwartz hearing, the judge wrote, was therefore not an abuse of Cahill’s discretion.
Reyes devoted much more space in his order to the venue question, but came to the same conclusion. Chauvin, he wrote, had not shown that pretrial publicity had created actual prejudice by the jury.
“Chauvin claims that ‘numerous news stories said Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck and Floyd could not breath.’ However, the record, including the videos, shows that Chauvin had one knee on Floyd’s back and one knee on his neck,” the ruling states. “While Chauvin identifies the extent of the publicity, he fails to analyze its content or explain why the publicity prejudiced him.” (Emphasis in original.)
The judge also paid note to Cahill’s finding that the trial would likely generate publicity no matter where and when it was held, and to his orders that jurors be anonymous and questioned individually during selection. Reyes also pointed, once again, to Chauvin’s unused peremptory challenges as a signal that he was satisfied with the selected jury.
Chauvin also sought to challenge his third-degree murder charge, citing a decision made by the Minnesota Supreme Court during his trial in the case of another killing by a Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor. The state high court overturned Noor’s third-degree murder conviction on the grounds that “depraved-mind” third-degree murder requires that a defendant’s conduct endanger more than one person, rather than being specifically directed at the murder victim.
The appeals court, however, opted out of considering Chauvin’s challenge to the third-degree murder charge, finding that Cahill’s decisions not to adjudicate the lesser-included charge or sentence Chauvin received for it were enough to warrant passing the issue over.
As for Chauvin’s second-degree murder conviction, the appeals court considered, and rejected, two of Chauvin’s contentions as to the nature of the charge. Mohrman argued that convicting a police officer of felony murder based on the underlying crime of third-degree assault requires strict liability, and that because officers are authorized to use force in arresting a resisting suspect, such a conviction is impossible.
The appeals court disagreed with both of these propositions, pointing to a number of Supreme Court decisions to bolster its finding that third-degree assault requires an actor to intentionally apply force to a victim. Because Chauvin’s force was found to be unreasonable, the appeals court concluded, his conduct was also not protected by his position as a police officer.
Chauvin is currently in federal custody, having taken a plea deal with federal prosecutors for civil rights violations related to Floyd’s death and to a prior incident in which he allegedly badly beat a restrained teenager with a flashlight. His 21-year federal sentence is being served concurrently with the 22-year sentence imposed by Cahill a few months prior.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted Chauvin and defended his convictions before the appeals court, issued a brief statement on the decision Monday morning.
“I am grateful for the decision of the Court of Appeals, and grateful we have a system where everyone, no matter how egregious their offense, is entitled to due process and fair treatment. The Court’s decision today shows once again no one is above the law — and no one is beneath it,” Ellison said in the statement.
“Today, my thoughts are today with the family of George Floyd and the communities that have suffered because of his death. We cannot bring Floyd back, but I hope today’s decision brings another measure of justice.”
Mohrman, meanwhile, expressed disappointment with the decision in an email Monday afternoon. While he had not yet been able to discuss the decision with Chauvin, he said, next steps for the litigation would include petitioning Minnesota's Supreme Court and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court for review, particularly on the change-of-venue issue.
NAACP condemns acquittal of
Yanez in Philando Castile death
MINNEAPOLIS—The Minneapolis NAACP unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms condemns the acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez on all charges related to his killing Philando Castile during a traffic stop.
This decision clearly illustrates the implicit bias and systemic racism that permeates our legal system. It should be unthinkable that Yanez would entirely escape accountability for his reckless and unjustified homicide, but this is what we have come to expect. This is how our system works.
This verdict cannot and will not produce justice.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez and Philando Castile. Screenshot
Bias and shoddy decision-making have saturated this case from the beginning. Castile was stopped in the first place because Yanez saw his "wide-set nose," or in the words of expert witness Jeffrey Noble, "because he was a Black man."
Though Castile's brake light was merely a pretext, defense attorneys repeatedly blamed Castile for his own death by saying he would still be alive if his light hadn’t been broken.
A juror who lied about sharing police advocacy posts was allowed to remain on the jury in spite of concerns expressed by prosecutors and the judge.
The defense relied on an expert witness who not only omitted crucial information on the stand, but also has an extensive track record of saying any and all police force is reasonable in numerous trials. The jury was prevented from hearing most of Yanez’s BCA interview that contradicted his crafted witness stand narrative.
In any system that values equity and justice, this should have been the most clear-cut guilty verdict possi- ble. Yanez racially profiled Castile, failed to follow protocol, panicked, and shot to kill.
Minnesota had a chance to deliver #Justice4Philando and instead Minnesota showed that Black lives, in fact, do not matter here, and that police have free rein to kill us.