Prosecutors Move to Add Another Charge Against the 3 Former Officers Involved in George Floyd's Death

Illustration for article titled Prosecutors Move to Add Another Charge Against the 3 Former Officers Involved in George Floyd's Death
Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (AP)

Last month, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three charges in the murder of George Floyd. As we await sentencing in the case, new developments have occurred in the case of the three officers charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin in Floyd’s death. The verdict in Chauvin’s trial has led to state prosecutors seeking to add another charge to the mens’ case.


“We think the Chauvin case should settle the matter here,” Neal Katyal, an attorney for the state, said according to NBC News. State prosecutors and attorneys for the men appeared virtually before a panel of three judges on the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Thursday, where prosecutors argued that Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao should be charged with aiding and abetting third-degree murder.

Defense attorney Deborah Ellis argued that it would be legally impossible to add the charge, as third-degree murder is an unintentional act, while aiding and abetting is an intentional act. “While an accomplice can aid a negligent act or even a reckless act, it takes more than that to aid and abet a third-degree depraved mind because you would have to intentionally aid ... an irrational frame of mind of somebody else,” Ellis said.

Katyal straight up called the argument “just wrong,” arguing that if someone knows an act is reckless and they assist with it, that’s aiding and abetting a reckless action. “Principle liability focuses on a defendant’s state of mind vis-a-vis the victim. Whereas accomplice liability focuses on an accomplice’s state of mind vis-a-vis the principle. Was the accomplice intending to aid the principle?” Katyal added.

State prosecutors have requested for the case to be sent back to a lower court so that they can further debate adding the new charges, while the defense has argued that the panel is capable of making the assessment on their own. The judges have 90 days to rule on the prosecution’s request.

Last May, the men were on the scene with Chauvin while he placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and back for over nine minutes, killing him. During the incident, Kueng kneeled on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs, which in my non-legal opinion certainly sounds like aiding and abetting a reckless act.

The three men are currently scheduled to face criminal trial in March 2022, with a federal trial alleging they violated Floyd’s civil rights set to begin this August.

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To preface, not a lawyer here, just offering my opinion on what I think is logical.

To me the real question here is “Did they aid and abet Chauvin on that day that he murdered George Floyd? If the answer is yes, and Chauvin was convicted of 2nd and 3rd degree murders, and 2nd degree manslaughter then it should be pretty simple. The argument about 3rd degree murder the defense is trying to make us just playing with words to get their clients off, which of course is their job, but the unintentional argument should only apply to the murder charge on Chauvin, if they intentionally aided and abetted him it shouldn’t matter what his intent was, he was committing a crime and they were helping him do that and should also be found guilty.

I think this case is almost as important as Chauvin’s. The outcome of the Chauvin trial should be a signal to all cops that they can’t commit crimes on the job and hide behind being a police officer. The outcome of this trial hopefully will be a signal that those who allow fellow officers to commit a crime will be held accountable for helping or not intervening. If someone is breaking the law, even if it is an officer, it is the duty of other officers to stop that person.