ST. PAUL — The attorney representing one of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged in connection with the May 25 death of George Floyd is calling for the case against his client to be dismissed, arguing that there isn't sufficient evidence for the criminal accusations brought against him.
Thomas Kiernan Lane is charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter for his involvement in the police response that preceded Floyd's death. Two other former officers — J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — have been similarly charged, while a fourth, Derek Chauvin, who was seen kneeling on Floyd's neck in a widely circulated cellphone video, is accused of being directly responsible for Floyd's death that night.
In motions filed Tuesday, July 7, Lane's attorney Earl Gray argues that it is "not fair and reasonable" for his client to stand trial. Footage from Lane and Kueng's body-worn cameras, as well as photos of the inside of Floyd's car, does not establish a probable cause for the charges he faces, Gray said.
The footage itself was not published to the Minnesota Judicial Branch website. But transcripts of it, Gray said, paint Lane and the other officers as attempting to subdue an uncooperative and possibly intoxicated Floyd in anticipation of an ambulance response.
Lane and Kueng found Floyd parked with two other passengers the night of May 25 outside of a south Minneapolis convenience store in the course responding to a call for service from the store alleging that Floyd paid using counterfeit currency. Lane observed Floyd moving in the vehicle as though he were reaching for something under the driver's seat, according to the transcript of the former's body camera footage, at which point Lane drew his gun.
Lane, who by this point was on his fourth day on the job, repeatedly shouted at Floyd to raise his hands and place them on the wheel. Floyd, according to transcripts, was apologizing profusely. Lane returned the gun to his holster once Floyd raised his hands.
"Jesus Christ, keep your f------ hands on the wheel," Lane is quoted as saying in the transcripts.
Floyd at one point attempted to exit the vehicle without police asking him to do so. Lane and Kueng eventually pulled him from the car themselves, according to the transcripts, thinking that he may attempt to drive off.
After handcuffing Floyd and searching his person, turning up a pipe, the two attempted to force him into their squad car. Saying he was claustrophobic, Floyd resisted and dragged his feet, prompting Lane to say that he would sit with him, roll the windows down and turn on the air conditioner, according to the transcripts.
Closer to the vehicle, a panicking Floyd thrashed to the point where he was "hitting his face on the glass in the squad and began to bleed from his mouth," according to a copy of the motion filed Tuesday. The officers then brought him to the ground and physically restrained him.
Lane would ask twice whether Floyd, who appeared to be in physical distress, should be rolled to his side. Chauvin, who by then was assisting with the call and was kneeling on Floyd, said not to.
"He's staying put where we got him," Chauvin is quoted in the transcripts as telling Lane, saying that the emergency medical technicians who were on the way would attend to Floyd.
Bystanders would soon begin to shout at the officers to release Floyd but Lane deferred to Chauvin, the more senior officer, in a manner Gray said was consistent with his training.
After nearly nine minutes of restraint, Floyd's pleas to be released and that he could not breathe grew more desperate.
"Tell my kids I love them. I'm dead," he is quoted in the transcript as saying.
Floyd was unresponsive by the time medical technicians loaded him into the ambulance for transport to the hospital. Lane, according to court motions, accompanied him and even attempted to resuscitate him.
A private autopsy order by attorneys for Floyd's family later found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back pressure. He also tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Because Lane had no way of knowing what Chauvin's intent or thinking was, Gray argues, he should not be considered culpable in Floyd's death. Lane's offer to sit with Floyd in the squad car and decision to accompany him in the ambulance, Gray said, further illustrate Lane's interest in keeping Floyd from harm.
Attorneys for Floyd's family did not respond to a request for comment.