US v. Tou Thao (2)

Over the past two days, since opening statements, I have followed the trial mostly through the excellent pool notes circulated by the AP’s Steve Karnowski. My impression is that the government is replicating the state’s case against Derek Chauvin with the same bystander witnesses and video evidence in somewhat streamlined form, in part on the insistence of Judge Magnuson. I am back in the Jury Assembly Room this morning to take in the live video feed myself.

Whenever I write about these cases I am instructed that George Floyd killed himself by a fentanyl overdose. I wasn’t persuaded of that by the evidence introduced at the trial of Derek Chauvin, not even to the level of a reasonable doubt. It is not clear to me that the defendants in this case even raise an issue of fact regarding the cause of Floyd’s death.

In any event, the cause of death is a matter of evidence (including expert opinion) beyond comment at the level of barroom banter. The prosecutors representing the United States here will draw on the identical evidence introduced by the prosecutors representing the State of Minnesota in the case against Derek Chauvin.

It is not at all obvious to me that Floyd might not have been saved if the officers had understood that Floyd was dying. If they had understood (or did understand), they certainly would (or should) have undertaken remedial measures in addition to calling for EMS Code 2 and 3.

One of the difficulties in the defense of these cases is that everyone witnessing Floyd’s detention seemed to know Floyd was dying under the three officers except the three officers and Tou Thao, who held off the crowd and interacted with some of the observers. What did they see? What were they thinking? I trust that these basic questions will be answered in some form in this trial.

I will reiterate one more time that in my opinion this case constitutes a gratuitous intrusion and disruption of the state’s pending criminal case against the officers. That case would already have been tried to conclusion if the Department of Justice had not disregarded its own guidelines to get in on the action here.

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