A federal grand jury has indicted Derek Chauvin and 3 other ex-cops on civil-rights violations in George Floyd's killing

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Derek Chauvin
Derek Chauvin was convicted of George Floyd's murder. Minnesota Department of Corrections via AP/Court TV via AP
  • Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis officers were indicted on civil-rights charges.

  • The Justice Department alleged Chauvin used his authority to deprive George Floyd of his rights.

  • In civil-rights cases, prosecutors must prove the officers acted willingly and didn't just make a mistake.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, and three other former officers with civil-rights violations tied to Floyd's death in 2020.

The indictment names Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao, who were all at the scene when Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for nine minutes during an arrest last May.

The civil-rights charges against Chauvin, Kueng, Lane, and Thao include violating Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force. All four officers were also charged with failing to provide Floyd medical care.

Chauvin faces a second indictment stemming from his actions in the violent arrest of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

In that case, prosecutors said Chauvin struck a Black teenager in the head with a flashlight and placed him in a prone position for 17 minutes, ignoring the boy's pleas that he couldn't breathe, the Star Tribune reported.

Derek Chauvin
A photo of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd was submitted as evidence. Pool video, Court TV

The officers were charged with deprivation of rights under color of law

The officers were charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutionally protected civil rights while acting as officers of the law. The charge is most commonly used in prosecuting law-enforcement officers or prison guards accused of using unjustified force on a suspect.

A jury doesn't need to find that the defendant was motivated by the victim's race, religion, sex, or another protected designation, just that the defendant deprived them of their rights and knew that they were doing so.

The offense is punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, but the sentence could also be much more lenient. Judges have wide discretion in imposing sentences in federal cases.

Civil-rights cases brought against law-enforcement officers have a demanding burden of proof.

"It is that willfulness that can be tricky to prove," Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, previously told Insider. "It has to show that the deprivation of rights was deliberate, and so you'd have to have evidence that showed the person knew that they were violating the person's constitutional rights."

George Floyd and his daughter
Floyd and his daughter Gianna, now 7. Court TV/

Testimony in Chauvin's state trial could have been presented to the federal grand jury

In April, a jury in Hennepin County, Minnesota, convicted Chauvin of Floyd's murder. His lawyer has since requested a new trial.

Witnesses for the prosecution in Chauvin's murder trial included Minneapolis law-enforcement officers and paramedics, bystanders, and other medical and policing experts.

The jury found that Chauvin used excessive force on Floyd while working as a Minneapolis police officer.

Bystanders, some of whom recorded Floyd's death, testified about begging Chauvin to get off Floyd because it looked like he couldn't breathe. Law-enforcement experts told the jury that Chauvin's use of force violated policing practices and was not something officers are trained to do.

Transcriptions of that testimony, which ultimately led to Chauvin's murder conviction, could have been presented to the federal grand jury that indicted him on civil-rights charges, Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who's now a professor at Columbia Law School, told Insider.

The federal government doesn't often pursue civil-rights cases against officers, in part because its policy is not to bring criminal charges unless there is admissible evidence that would make it probable to obtain and sustain a conviction, McQuade said.

It's also unusual for the Justice Department to bring federal charges in a case where there has been a state conviction, according to McQuade, unless state and federal prosecutors want two convictions to serve as "a backstop" to each other in what is known as the petite policy.

"It says, generally, that federal prosecutors should not duplicate the efforts of state prosecutors, unless there is some substantial federal interest that has not yet been vindicated," McQuade said.

Read the original article on Insider