The four former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating the civil rights of George Floyd
pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The federal hearing, which included arguments on several pre-trial petitions, took place with all of the men together despite some requests that the men be tried in separate hearings.
Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao were indicted by a federal grand jury on May 25, 2020, for their involvement in the police killing of George Floyd. In a bystander’s video that’s now been seen worldwide, the four men in question can be seen holding Floyd face down while he was handcuffed and not resisting. The moment ignited protests around the country and the world as many called for changes to policing and states’ police budgets.
The four men appeared for the hearing virtually. Chauvin, who is currently serving a 22 1/2-year sentence for Floyd’s killing, called in from the state’s maximum-security prison. The other three men showed up separately on the call while each of them sat with their attorneys.
Approximately 40 pre-trial motions were heard by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung. Some of them were typical court discussions, such as one which focused on when the names of witnesses would be released. However, there were two oral arguments that stood out, which Leung asked both attorneys to file in written arguments.
Lane and Keung’s attorneys requested that the judge remove language from the indictment indicating that the two officers were newly hired and had been working with the Minneapolis Police Department since Dec. 2019. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, argued that his client was still in training and was under supervision for months. Lane was on just his fourth shift without supervision at the time of Floyd’s death.
Keung’s attorney argues something similar, stating that his client was only on his third unsupervised shift when the officers encountered Floyd. Both attorneys told the judge that referring to their clients as such in the indictment would be unfair.
“Common sense dictates that a law officer with four days on the job would be less apt to intervene,” Gray said.
Keung’s and Lane’s attorneys also asked that the two of them be tried separately from Chauvin in fear that they would receive unfair prejudice if they appeared alongside him, according to NBC News.
All four of the men are facing various counts of violating Floyd’s civil rights for the incident. Chauvin is accused of violating Floyd’s civil rights to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Thao and Kung received a violation charge for not stopping Chauvin from placing his knee on Floyd’s neck, prompting him to tell officers he couldn’t breathe. All four of them are charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights by failing to provide him with medical attention.