UPDATE: Testimony concludes in federal civil rights trial of 3 former officers in George Floyd’s death
Ex-cop Thomas Lane takes the stand in federal civil rights trial; closing arguments Tuesday
ST. PAUL -- Testimony concluded Monday in the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers after former officer Thomas Lane took the stand, saying he didn't realize George Floyd's grave condition until he was rolled onto his back on a stretcher.
Lane was mostly stoic and engaged on the stand but became tearful as he described seeing Floyd's face for the first time after he was prone on the street, his neck pinned under Derek Chauvin's knee for more than 9 minutes with his hands cuffed behind his back.
"He didn't look good," Lane said.
Lane was on the stand most of the day with Assistant U.S. Attorney Samantha Trepel conducting the cross examination, working to show that Lane failed to render medical aid to Floyd, including starting CPR or rolling him onto his side so he could breathe.
Trepel asked Lane whether he heard Floyd respond to a concerned bystander urging him to get up and get into the squad car by saying, "the knee on my neck, I can't breathe." Lane said he didn't specifically remember that.
Trepel also asked Lane if he'd ever seen an officer use a knee on the neck of a suspect who was handcuffed face-down on the ground. Lane said no.
Testimony in the trial began Jan. 24. Closing arguments are expected to take much of the day Tuesday and then the jury will begin deliberations. Along with former officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, Lane is charged with violating Floyd's civil rights by failing to render medical aid to Floyd. Kueng and Thao are also charged with failing to intervene on Floyd's behalf to stop Chauvin's excessive force.
During the fatal restraint, Lane held down Floyd's legs as Kueng restrained his mid-section and Thao monitored a crowd of bystanders while Chauvin pinned Floyd's neck.
Lane was the third officer to testify in the trial and the first to speak with Floyd on the scene May 25, 2020. He was partnered with Kueng, another rookie, and they were first on the scene to a call of a forgery in progress at Cup Foods in South Minneapolis. Lane was on his fourth shift as a full-fledged officer, having only recently completed training.
Under direct questioning, Lane's defense lawyer Earl Gray asked whether Floyd stopped resisting after four minutes of restraint. Lane responded, yes and "I said, 'should we roll him on the side?'" But Lane said Chauvin responded, "Nope, we're good like this."
Gray asked Lane if he had known Chauvin before that day.
"I knew that he was an FTO (field training officer) and I knew of his reputation that he'd been on for 20 years and was a guy that had been in a lot of serious situations and could handle himself," Lane said.
Gray walked Lane through the final moments of the restraint and his suggestions to Chauvin, who is serving a sentence of more than 22 years for a murder conviction in Floyd's death last year. Chauvin also pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges in Floyd's death in December.
Lane testified that he said he was concerned about excited delirium and Chauvin responded, "That's why we got him on his stomach and that's why the ambulance is coming."
Lane testified that he responded with "OK" and "it just seemed reasonable at the time." He said police training for excited delirium was to "keep a person from thrashing, hold them in place" until paramedics arrived to inject ketamine.
Trepel worked to counter the defense claim that the three officers deferred to Chauvin, noting that Lane approached Floyd in his vehicle, gave commands and made decisions about what to do next.
In direct questioning by Gray, Lane described Floyd as "handcuffed and out of control" early on in the arrest.
Trepel, however, got Lane to affirm that when Floyd was initially handcuffed and seated against a wall, he didn't get up or try to escape.
She sought to show that the officer's duty to protect Floyd trumped their fears of Chauvin's seniority and power over them. "You would agree that fear of negative repercussions, fear of angering a field training officer is not an exception to the duty to render aid?"
Lane said, "yes, ma'am."
Throughout Trepel's queries, Gray objected often, calling her questions argumentative and repetitive. Judge Paul Magnuson mostly sustained the objections.
Trepel talked about Lane's experience and how even though he was a rookie, he'd been on about 130 calls since the beginning of 2020 while still working under supervision. She asked him whether all officers are trained that if someone doesn't have a pulse, they start CPR within 5 to 10 seconds because checking a pulse doesn't circulate their blood or oxygen.
Lane said yes, if the situation allows.
Trepel asked whether getting the other officers off Floyd would have allowed him to breathe. Lane said that Floyd was breathing. But Trepel said that after about 8:25 p.m., Lane made no additional observations about his pulse or breathing.
Lane agreed that he didn't say anything after that, but said he could hear the ambulance approaching.
Under questioning by Gray, Lane testified that he didn't always have a clear view of what Chauvin was doing but that his knee "appeared to be just kind of holding at the base of the neck and shoulder."
Lane said he couldn't see Floyd's face and that he asked to roll him a second time to "better assess" Floyd's "condition."
In response, Chauvin, "just kind of avoided that and asked if we were OK," Lane testified.
Lane said he was reassured when the ambulance arrived and the paramedic checked Floyd's carotid before retrieving a stretcher without urgency. Lane said he assumed at that point "that Mr. Floyd's all right."
Lane got choked up and teary as he described why he went in the ambulance to help the paramedics. "Just based on when Mr. Floyd was turned over, he didn't look good and I just felt like, the situation, he might need a hand," Lane said.
It was in the ambulance that Lane said he first realized Floyd had gone into cardiac arrest.
Lane began testimony by talking about his life and background. He's married and turns 39 in a couple weeks. He and his wife are expecting their first child soon.
He grew up in Arden Hills and attended Mounds View High School, earning his associate's degree from Century College before attending the University of Minnesota and deciding on a career in law enforcement.
He was accepted to the Minneapolis Police Department in February 2019 and completed his training in early December. Gray asked Lane if he was terminated from the department on May 26. Lane responded, "Yeah, I found out I was terminated sitting in a Subway parking lot. I read a news article."
At the end of the day, Magnuson dismissed a third juror, No. 65, an alternate. The man lives in Ramsey County and is an account executive for a data company. The dismissal left the court with three alternates in addition to the 12 main jurors who will decide the case.
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