MINNEAPOLIS — The fate of former Minneapolis Police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane depended largely on the outcome of Derek Chauvin’s trial.
After a jury found him guilty Tuesday of three felony counts, the three other officers must now put together their own defense strategies for a joint trial that begins August 23. All of them face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The State Attorney General’s Office also confirmed that it will argue next month in the Court of Appeals to add a third-degree murder charge against them.
Michael Bryant, a KARE 11 legal expert and managing partner at Bradshaw and Bryant, said he expects any negotiations about possible plea deals – if they happen at all – to occur after Chauvin’s sentencing. He also said that he would expect a similar, though not identical, trial compared to Chauvin’s.
“I don’t know that we’ll see some of the same experts, but I would say probably we’ll see some of the same witnesses,” Bryant said. “The other thing is, you have testimony now… Will people testify consistently to the way they testified in the past?”
Bryant said the attorneys for Lane, Thao and Kueng may analyze the Chauvin trial to determine whether their clients should testify, and the proceedings of the last three weeks may also help them learn more about how jurors reacted to the body camera videos.
Lee Hutton, another KARE 11 legal expert, told our station’s Sunrise team in a live interview Wednesday that the defense attorneys may have to do some “reflection” over the next four months.
“They’re going to have to decide what other defenses they can bring up to separate themselves from the actions of Chauvin,” Hutton said. “Are they going to have to reboot their defense strategy? I have to say yes.”
Each of the three officers played a different role in the response to 38th and Chicago last May 25. Lane flashed a gun initially at Floyd and later held his legs – but asked Chauvin twice if they should roll Floyd over.
“I would say I felt like it maybe could have been handled differently, or we should be reassessing what we’re doing,” Lane told BCA investigators in an interview that provides some insight into his potential defense strategy.
Lane’s partner, Kueng, was on Floyd's back during the restraint. His attorney, however, indicated in court documents that he may “shift blame onto Chauvin.” Meanwhile, Thao told investigators he couldn’t fully see what the other officers were doing.
"I was concerned with the crowd,” Thao told the BCA. “I would hope that the other officers would do their job and check on him."
If the three former officers don’t negotiate pleas, they’ll move ahead to a trial that will also garner international publicity.
“The question is, how do you pick a jury?” Bryant said. “They may have a better venue argument."