ST PAUL, Minn. —
- Darnella Frazier briefly leaves witness stand in tears at beginning of testimony
- National use-of-force expert Timothy Longo testifies on officer response
- Prosecution calls FBI special agent who reviewed officers' body-worn camera from the day of George Floyd's murder
- Bystander who recorded video of Floyd's death testified Friday
Monday, Feb. 14
The federal government has rested its case Monday in the trial of Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng - the three former Minneapolis police officers charged with depriving George Floyd of his civil rights.
The defense will start calling witnesses Tuesday morning, with at least one of the former officers expected to testify.
Most of Monday was spent on a national use-of-force expert before the prosecution finished with Darnella Frazier - the teen whose video of George Floyd's murder on May 25, 2020 sparked outrage across the country.
Frazier teared up as the first question was asked and said, "I can't do this. I'm sorry. It's too much pressure," prompting the judge to take a break. A few minutes later, Frazier was able to continue.
Earlier in the day, national use-of-force expert Timothy Longo testified, saying Derek Chauvin's use of force was unreasonable, and the other officers' conduct was "inconsistent" with generally accepted police practices.
Longo said the officers should have taken an "action" to intervene and stop Chauvin when he held his knee to George Floyd's neck.
In cross-examination, the defense attorneys were aggressive in their questioning at times, such as when Earl Gray raised his voice to ask, "What do you expect, that my client, a four-day veteran, walk over where this crowd is and pick up Chauvin and throw him off? Is that your expectation, sir?"
Longer responded, "I think someone should have done something."
Gray also pointed out that his client, Thomas Lane, suggested multiple times to roll Floyd over.
Kueng's attorney Tom Plunkett turned the blame to MPD training, and showed the jury a disturbing video of people killing police officers. He said it's a training video and the last thing recruits see before becoming officers, which instills an "us versus them" mentality.
With the prosecution resting, the defense can start calling witnesses Tuesday.
Darnella Frazier, the teenage bystander who filmed George Floyd's murder, took the stand as the prosecution's last witness following the afternoon break.
As prosecutors started questioning Frazier, she broke down on the stand saying, "I can't do it," and walked out of the courtroom. The judge then dismissed the jury for another brief break.
Defense attorney Robert Paule raised concern about Frazier's emotions, claiming "prejudicial effect" would affect his client should she continue to cry while testifying. Magnuson told Paule that testifying can be an emotional thing for any person, and he will allow her to continue her testimony.
Frazier returned to the stand composed, and began answering questions from the prosecution. She talked about the night Floyd was murdered, beginning with her walking up to the scene with her cousin. Raguse reported that prosecutors focused on her being able to see that Floyd was in need of medical attention.
After a short line of direct questioning from the prosecution, and some cross-examination from Gray, Frazier was dismissed from the stand and the state rested its case.
The defense is scheduled to call its first witness Tuesday morning.
Defense attorney Earl Gray continued cross-examination of Longo, asking him if he thought it would have been reasonable for his client, Thomas Lane, to physically intervene in Chauvin's use of force against George Floyd, even though he had only been on the job for four days. Longo told Gray that "someone should have done something."
Judge Magnuson called an afternoon recess after Longo finished his testimony, making way for the prosecution's last witness, Darnella Frazier.
The federal trial for three former Minneapolis officers opened its fourth week Monday, with prosecutors telling the courtroom they expect to wrap up their part of the case by day's end.
J. Alexander Keung, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane are charged with violating George Floyd's rights on the night he was murdered by fellow officer Derek Chauvin. Thao and Kueng face an additional charge for failing to stop Chauvin that night.
Chauvin pleaded guilty to the same charges before the current federal trial began, and was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in state court last spring.
The prosecution began Monday by calling use-of-force expert Timothy Longo to the stand. Longo told jurors that he is not being paid to testify and said he was contacted by federal prosecutors and agreed to appear for free.
KARE 11's Lou Raguse, who has been covering the federal trial since day one, recalled Longo's testimony in the prosecution of former MPD officer Mohamed Noor as being "very effective." Raguse also noted that Longo was not called in the state case against Chauvin.
When questioned by the prosecution Longo testified that the conduct of Lane, Kueng and Thao on May 25, 2020 was inconsistent with generally accepted police practices at the time of Floyd's death. He told the jury that "intervening" requires "an act." Raguse said prosecutors are using the testimony of Longo and Lt. Richard Zimmerman (who took the stand last week) to convince jurors the three defendants did not do enough to get Chauvin off Floyd's neck simply by "making suggestions."
Defense attorney Robert Paule, representing Tou Thao, objected to Longo's assertion about intervening, saying his answer misstated the law as it did not include the phrase "attempt to intervene."
Judge Paul Magnuson let the answer stand, but pointed out to jurors that both the law and policy use the word attempt.
Raguse says there were multiple objections that questions by prosecutors and testimony by Longo are repetitive and cumulative, a position sustained by Judge Magnuson. "We're covering the same ground over and over here," the judge warned the prosecution. It's a theme Magnuson has sounded numerous times through the duration of the trial proceedings.
When given his opportunity to cross examine the witness Kueng's defense attorney Thomas Plunkett aggressively questioned Longo, putting the focus back on MPD's training program. Plunkett replayed a video with audio from an Al Pacino speech from the movie "Any Given Sunday, covered with a video montage of of surveillance and dash cam video of people attacking or trying to kill police. "That's the last thing recruits see in their use of force training," Plunkett asserts.
Plunkett then asked Longo if he agrees it's not good law enforcement practice to develop and encourage an "us versus them" mentality. He also tried to link his client to Lane, who is not charged with failing to intervene as Kueng is. Lane was overheard on scene asking Chauvin if they should turn Floyd on his side, offer to stay with him in the police squad car and roll down the window so Floyd could get air.
The court then recessed for lunch.
Friday Feb. 11 Recap
Chief Kelly McCarthy of the Mendota Heights Police Department was called to the stand by the prosecution team. She's the chair of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, the regulatory agency for licensing police officers in the state of Minnesota.
Chief McCarthy reviewed the standards and training requirements potential officers need in order to become licensed in the state, including completing a Professional Peace Officer Education (PPOE) Program, and spoke about an officer's "duty to intervene" and said it was one of the core learning objectives when Lane and Kueng were in their PPOE programs.
Nineteen year old Alyssa Funari, who was one of the bystanders that witnessed George Floyd’s death, was the second witness called Friday. She told the court about what medical aid she saw the officers give Floyd, and said that even though Tou Thao had his back turned, she thought he would have heard what was happening behind him.
The prosecution’s third witness was FBI Special Agent Matthew Vogel, who works with the violent crimes squad at the FBI. Prosecutors reviewed a timeline of events from the night of Floyd's death that Vogel created using body camera video from the three officers and transcripts.
Defense attorneys made several objections during the prosecution’s line of questioning about playing the body camera videos multiple times.
Vogel continued his testimony through the rest of the afternoon, fielding questions about his opinion about what Kueng and Thao could and could not see as events unfolded.