MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — An attorney for one of the three officers accused of aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd filed court papers attacking Floyd for drug use and saying that his client “did nothing wrong.”
Attorney Earl Gray’s memorandum on behalf of now-fired Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane – filed Monday in response to prosecutor arguments and released Tuesday – begins with a rundown of Floyd’s arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store in Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Park neighborhood.
Gray pointed to toxicology reports which found fentanyl, a powerful opioid, and methamphetamine in Floyd’s blood and suggested that Floyd had eaten drugs in an attempt to conceal them from Lane and fellow officer J. Alexander Kueng.
“Our post-motion filing investigation has revealed that Mr. Floyd was, as the officers had suspected, an addict. He was worse than that,” Gray wrote.
The attorney cited a 2019 narcotics arrest in which Floyd was a passenger in a car with unlicensed plates and a variety of pills and just over 20 grams of substances that a field test said was cocaine. In that arrest, Gray wrote, officers reported that Floyd had put something in his mouth. Afterward, Gray said, Floyd admitted being addicted to opiates.
Gray also brought up that Floyd had three prior drug-related convictions and one in Texas for a 2007 robbery. His claims to officers that he didn’t do anything wrong, Gray said, should not have been believed.
“Mr. Floyd’s willingness to deny chemical use, to announce his confusion, that he wasn’t resisting when he [sic] done so just a year earlier, to say he ‘didn’t know what was going on,’ that he said he was ‘sorry’ but not for what,” Gray wrote, “was all unbelievable, and the officers had every right to discount anything this man said.”
That included, the attorney said, Floyd’s pleas of “I can’t breathe,” which began some minutes before he was pinned to the ground.
Turning to Lane’s conduct, Gray argued that his client and fellow officer Derek Chauvin had been acting in accordance with departmental training. He cited a photo in the Minneapolis Police Department’s training manual showing a similar hold to the one Chauvin used on Floyd, in which he placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for some nine minutes.
“The alleged Chauvin assault, the knee, was… encouraged, standard, not to be questioned, particularly by an officer who had finished his training that Wednesday,” Gray wrote.
The attorney also pointed out that by calling for an ambulance and performing CPR, Lane behaved in a way “inconsistent with a desire to aid and abet his death.” Calling the state’s arguments “a narrative fiction,” Gray wrote simply: “Officer Lane did nothing wrong.”
Audio of Lane’s interview with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was also released Tuesday. The release was a first in Minnesota, where such proceedings are usually kept out of the public eye until after trial.
Filed alongside Lane’s motion to dismiss, the interview provides Lane’s perspective on Floyd’s arrest, including Lane’s own speculations that Floyd was on drugs and his contention that he’d never seen a hold like the one Chauvin used, contrary to the memorandum’s claim that it was used in his training.
Members of Floyd’s family spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribune to decry Gray’s motion Tuesday. Floyd’s aunt, Angela Harrelson, said that her nephew’s drug use and past mistakes weren’t good reasons for him to die.
“Regardless of his past, nothing justifies the way he died,” Harrelson told the paper. “I just feel that to go after someone’s character to justify his death — I’m not pleased with that. I’m not saying that he was a perfect person. He made mistakes. And he had a disease that he was working hard to fight against and it’s a tough disease to fight.”
Floyd’s outspoken uncle, Selwyn Jones, agreed.
“What does that [Floyd’s past] got to do with them holding him down in the middle of the street … and killing him by cutting his air off?” Jones said. “You don’t’ live in the past. You live in the now. And the now is three police officers restrained my nephew.”
Floyd’s family has a pending civil rights case against the city of Minneapolis and the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest. That case, filed in July, is still in its earliest stages.
Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment. A spokesman said that “we’re doing all of our speaking through our motions and in open court,” and that the office would have “something to say about it at the omnibus hearing on Sept. 11.”
Gray did not respond to a request to discuss the memorandum.