Neither cameras nor microphones. Judge Peter Cahill banned filming and sound recording at the hearing scheduled for Monday, June 29, at the Hennepin County District Court. The American media will nevertheless have their eyes riveted on this Minnesota courthouse, where the four ex-police officers implicated in the death of George Floyd, on May 25, are scheduled to appear at 12:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m. in Paris). The defense had asked that cameras be allowed in the room, but the magistrate rejected their request in the absence of agreement with the prosecution, which opposed it.
During this preliminary hearing, the four most hated cops in the United States may - it is not known whether the two detainees will be present or by videoconference - meet for the first time since May 25, the date of their intervention to arrest George Floyd, which resulted in the death of the 46-year-old African American.
The long agony filmed by this man suspected of having paid for cigarettes with a fake 20 dollar bill (less than 18 euros) revolted millions of people, pushing hundreds of thousands onto the street. These waves of protests, sometimes accompanied by riots, mainly triggered a planetary tsunami. A few hours before this simple stage of a judicial marathon, return to charges which weigh, at this stage of the investigations, on the four police officers of Minneapolis, dismissed in the wake of the drama, and who all risk 40 years in prison.
Derek Chauvin, the alleged executioner
His face will haunt memories for a long time and will remain etched in people's consciences. That of a white policeman, crushing his knee against the nape of the neck of an African American suspect kept on the ground. An agent calm and obviously insensitive to the supplications of Georges Floyd choking. Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with 2nd degree murder (roughly the equivalent of intentional homicide without premeditation in France), 3rd degree murder (manslaughter) and manslaughter.
Held in a Minnesota high-security prison, the ex-officer with nineteen years of service in Minneapolis had his bail attached to conditions set at $ 1 million. Another major obstacle has arisen since in its defense. A few days ago, his former boss publicly overwhelmed him. “Derek Chauvin knew what he was doing […]. The tragic death of George Floyd is not due to a lack of training […]. It's murder, "said Medaria Arradondo, the Minneapolis police chief. Comments made when he was summoned to confirm whether these men were following training on the risks of asphyxiation linked to immobilization techniques, training which had been established by regulation in 2016 following a fatal arrest .
The boss of the Minneapolis cops assured that Derek Chauvin had followed this training. Equally formal, he argued that the order to place an arrested person in a position where he could breathe was "hammered endlessly" to the officers. In view of a trial, his testimony would be worth gold for the prosecution. "Such comments could seriously affect Derek Chauvin's right to a fair trial," said one of his lawyers.
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VIDEO. According to Derek Chauvin's director of Kung Fu school, "it couldn't be involuntary"
Former cook then soldier in the military police, Derek Chauvin displays a past of glorious cop (medal of bravery), but also sulfurous (17 complaints against him), even if he received only one reprimand. This time the charges are very serious. The images show that the victim's ordeal under his knee lasted 7 minutes and 46 seconds, instead of the 8 m 46 counted at the start. This does not change the unsustainable nature of the video or the characterization of the proceedings.
"2nd degree murder seems the most appropriate charge in light of the existing evidence and in the hope of obtaining a conviction," say many American lawyers. "We will maintain that George Floyd was attacked, which characterizes the underlying crime of a 2nd degree murder," announced the Attorney General of Minnesota, aware that convincing a jury in cases of police violence - even filmed - is never simple.
Tou Thao, the silent accomplice
The role of this 34-year-old policeman made less of an impression than Chauvin's act. Though. A video, recently relayed by Ben Crump, the iconic lawyer for African-American victims who defends the family of George Floyd, aroused deep disgust in public opinion. We see the officer Thao standing near Chauvin and Floyd. He keeps the curious away and dissuades them from approaching. Several passers-by urge him to intervene, discovering, startled, that the suspect no longer reacts. "You are going to let him kill this man in front of you," gets upset a witness. Thao doesn't blink.
NEW VIDEO OF # GEORGEFLOYD'S MURDER! Beyond disturbing, even harder to watch than the 1st video. “You're going to let him kill that man in front of you?” Thao stood guard as Chauvin KILLED George ... while bystanders tried to save his life (Full video: https://t.co/bog11TZcDt) pic.twitter.com/coNI2oIb8l- Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) June 14, 2020
"He has stood guard," accuses Ben Crump. "Silence has killed someone," notes a bitter American association, like Thao from the Hmong community, an Asian minority in the United States, many of whose members live in poverty. According to his ex-chief, Tou Thao was also trained in the dangers of asphyxiation. This man, who was a vigilante, a storekeeper and then a trainer in a fast-food restaurant, had been in the police force in Minneapolis since 2012. Today, he is charged with complicity in 2nd degree murder and manslaughter. The man accused of remaining a spectator during Floyd's agony is still in detention.
Thomas Lane, the helpless rookie
He was the first accused to be released, in return for a $ 750,000 bail. The Star Tribune, the leading daily in Minnesota, has just revealed that Thomas Lane had benefited in part from crowdfunding. His lawyer confirmed it, without specifying the amount or the name of the donors.
The 37-year-old was a bartender, then a waiter, and even helped as a volunteer with Somali refugees. Thomas Lane became an officer in December 2019 and intervened first on May 25. With Alexander Kueng, it was he who arrested and handcuffed George Floyd. He helped immobilize him on the ground by holding his legs, then letting his training officer Dereck Chauvin apply his particularly brutal strangulation technique.
“My client had no choice but to follow Derek Chauvin's instructions. What was he supposed to do if not follow his trainer? Pleads his lawyer, Earl Gray. Thomas Lane did not remain indifferent despite everything. Twice he was concerned about whether the suspect should not be moved to another position. Suggestions rejected by the "experienced" Chauvin.
But according to the prosecution, Thomas Lane, considered more than just a "freshman," took no action to help George Floyd. This passivity earned him the same charges as Tou Thao, his much more experienced colleague.
Alexander Kueng, the other blue pinned
The youngest of the four ex-police officers was released from prison on June 19 by paying his bail of $ 750,000. The 26-year-old ex-cop also has the most atypical profile. A graduate in sociology, J. Alexander Kueng reads Russian and can write it, according to his file. This young recruit, who had completed his probationary year three months earlier, helped tackle Georges Floyd on the ground, holding him at back level. He too is accused of his immobility and the same charges as Thao and Lane. Behavior that earned him a hate that he could already verify.
The day after his release, Kueng was apostrophied by a customer in a Minnesota supermarket. She then asks him if he is the one she suspects. The young man nods. "Did you think people weren't going to recognize you?" You killed someone in cold blood. You do not have the right to be there […]. We want to see you locked up, ”the same woman gets carried away while filming the scene. She finally asks Kueng if he has any regrets, without getting an answer. This confrontation, posted on social networks, will be seen more than 3 million times.
If Derek Chauvin appears most involved in the death of George Floyd, the three other ex-police officers are seriously implicated by the prosecution. Their former chief, Medaria Arradondo, did not spare them: “They knew what was going on. One acted intentionally, the others failed to prevent it. On May 25, none of them wanted or knew how to save George Floyd, who, although he resisted the start of his arrest, witnesses said, died of suffocation due to a possible counterfeit 20 dollars.