Three More MPD Officers Await Trial -- the Prosecution's Theory Against Chauvin Makes Them Murderers, Too

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The trials of former Minneapolis PD Officers Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were severed from the trial of Derek Chauvin, although the prosecution’s theory of Chauvin’s guilt ended up such that severing them was not appropriate.  The evidence that made Chauvin guilty is pretty much the same evidence that should make the other three guilty as well.

None of them had their knee on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes.

None of them are charged with Second Degree Murder.

But the factual basis used against Derek Chauvin to convict him of Second Degree Murder is no less applicable to all three.

Dr. Tobin said Chauvin’s knee was irrelevant — it was the combination of factors involving his being left in the prone position, with his hands cuffed behind his back, and with the weight of one or more officers applied to him, which prevented him from inflating his lungs sufficient to maintain the supply of oxygen in his body necessary for brain function.  The end result was Floyd’s brain quit sending signals to his lungs to breathe, and he then had the heart attack that killed him.

Dr. Tobin was able to measure with scientific certainty the decline in Floyd’s rate or respiration, the decline in the percentage of oxygen taken into his lungs, and the exact moment on the videotape when he died, which then established a failure by Chauvin to render medical aid as required by policy and by law.

All those factors apply equally to each of the other three officers at the scene, because none have anything to do with Chauvin’s knee and where it was placed, yet all are part of the prosecution’s theory for charging and convicting Chauvin for Second Degree Murder.

When Chauvin and the other officers were originally charged in June 2020 by the Hennepin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, he was charged only with Third Degree Murder and Manslaughter.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz asked the Minnesota Attorney General to take over the case, and after Keith Ellison agreed to do so, the new charge of Second Degree Murder was added — but only against Chauvin.  As was reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The amended complaint filed against Chauvin stated, “Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous. … Officer Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”

The other officers at the scene — Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — were each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, and with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence. Both charges are categorized as “unintentional” felonies.

As the evidence came in at trial, the prosecution’s position was that “positional asphyxia” — leaving Floyd in the prone position — and compression of his abdomen up against his diaphragm and lungs by the officers applying pressure to his mid and lower back prevented Floyd from drawing sufficient oxygen into his lungs to remain alive.

They demonized Chauvin with the videos of his knee, but the EVIDENCE put forth by the government in Court said the knee wasn’t part of the mechanism which caused Floyd’s death.

The charge of “aiding and abetting” made sense only in the circumstance that it was Chauvin’s knee — which involved Chauvin acting differently than the others — which was the “inherently dangerous” conduct that supported the Second Degree Murder charge against Chauvin alone.

Now that the Minnesota AG has created an evidentiary record that it was the actions of all four officers working in conjunction with one another that was the “inherently dangerous” conduct that led to Floyd’s death, how does the AG avoid the obligation to amend the complaint once again, and charge the other three officers not just with “aiding and betting”, but with actually participating in the “felony murder” of Floyd based on the same facts they employed to convict Chauvin of that crime?

Beyond the most immediate issue of what now happens to the case against the other three officers, the “legacy” of the Chauvin case will be that the ultra-liberal District Attorneys elected around the country over the past four years will now be emboldened to be even more aggressive in their charging decisions in police misconduct cases.  An ever-expanding list of police “transgressions” in the “use of force” will now come under consideration for criminal charges, which will only further accelerate the pace of police officers leaving the job in big cities where such District Attorneys have control of the charging decisions.

Big cities — and predominantly the poorer socioeconomic class regions of big cities — are already suffering some of the highest violent crime rates recorded in the last 20+ years.  That problem will now get worse because the police that remain to handle the job of policing in those areas will intervene at a lower level, and mostly after the criminal incident is over.  They’ll show up, get medical attention for the victims, write the reports, and go back to their patrol cars.

Why do more when it only exposes you to second-guessing and a prison cell?  What police officer has ever gone to jail for a delay in responding?

This is now a matter of police self-interest taking precedent over the interest of the community.  The “Protect” part of “Protect and Serve” will be focused on more selfish interests going forward.