In a federal court hearing on Tuesday morning, Derek Chauvin and the three other ex-Minneapolis Police Department officers at the scene of George Floyd’s murder last year pleaded not guilty to violating the 46-year-old Black man's constitutional rights during his fatal arrest.
Chauvin—already a convicted murdered at the state level—Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Keung all pleaded not guilty to depriving Floyd of the right to be free from an unreasonable seizure and to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer. They were joined by ex-cop Thomas Lane in also pleading not guilty to being indifferent to Floyd’s medical needs and failing to aid him during the arrest.
In the court proceedings, defense attorneys for former officers Thao, Keung, and Lane also laid out reasons why they believe their clients should be separated from Chauvin in trial. Earl Gray, an attorney representing Lane, said the three officers would be tainted by Chauvin’s conviction in April.
“It will be very difficult with Chauvin in this case to get a fair trial for the other three,” he said, adding that the other three officers “should not be saddled or branded with [Chauvin’s] conviction of murder.”
Gray and Thomas Plunkett, an attorney representing Keung, also previewed their defenses when they argued language in the indictment against both officers stating they became cops in Dec. 2019 would be misleading to jurors. Both attorneys argued their clients had only worked less than five shifts each before their encounter with Floyd in May 2020. Although both officers were sworn in to the department the previous year, Plunkett argued, Lane and Keung were only officers in a “technical sense” because they were still training with senior officers before their handful of solo shifts.
After hearing the arguments on Tuesday, the federal judge said he will weigh in on them following further discussion.