Derek Chauvin Blames His Former Colleagues for George Floyd’s Death
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, plans to argue that the responsibility for Floyd’s death lies largely with two former colleagues. Those inexperienced cops, he says, failed to de-escalate a confrontation that began when they tried to arrest Floyd for attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill, a misdemeanor. While there is plenty of blame to go around, Chauvin’s defense strategy seems more than a little iffy in light of his behavior that day and his history of using restraints like the one that killed Floyd.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder in connection with Floyd’s May 25 death, which provoked nationwide protests against police brutality. He also faces lesser charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, the officers who arrested Floyd outside of Cup Foods, a convenience store and take-out restaurant on Chicago Avenue, are charged with aiding and abetting either second-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter. So is Tou Thao, an officer who stood by as his three colleagues restrained a handcuffed Floyd face down on the pavement, dismissing the concerns of onlookers who repeatedly warned that Floyd’s life was in danger.
All three officers theoretically face up to 25 years in prison for unintentional second-degree murder, although the presumptive penalty under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines is about 12 years. Yet their culpability in Floyd’s death covers a wide range.
“As is evident from pretrial pleadings, the other three defendants are prepared to place the blame for Mr. Floyd’s death squarely on Mr. Chauvin’s shoulders,” Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, writes in a motion for separate trials. Nelson suggests that version of events is inaccurate given the full context of the incident.
Nelson is right that Lane and Kueng handled the arrest poorly. As Reason‘s Scott Shackford has noted, Lane set the tone for the encounter by pointing a gun at Floyd’s head immediately after approaching him as he sat in a parked car. A terrified Floyd begged Lane not to shoot him but ev
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