The lawyer for a former Minneapolis police officer who held back bystanders while his colleagues held down a dying George Floyd said in court documents Tuesday that his client is innocent of the crimes and should be acquitted of state charges of complicity in murder and involuntary manslaughter.

But prosecutors argued in their documents that Tou Thao «acted without courage and showed no compassion» despite his nearly nine years of experience and ignored his training even though he could see Floyd’s life slowly slipping away.

Tuesday was the deadline for prosecutors and defense attorneys to submit final written arguments in the case of Thao, the last of four former officers facing trial in Floyd’s murder.

The state and federal cases against Derek Chauvin and the two other officers involved have been largely settled, except for Chauvin’s appeal of his murder conviction. But Thao asked Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to decidebased on stipulated evidence, if guilty of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in the murder of Floyd, instead of going to trial.

Floyd, a black man, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pinned him to the ground with his knee to Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes. Video from a bystander captured Floyd’s fading cries of «I can’t breathe.» Floyd’s murder sparked protests around the world and forced a national reckoning with police brutality and racism.

Unlike the other three former officers, Thao has maintained that he did nothing wrong. When he rejected a plea deal last August, he said it «would be lying» to plead guilty.

Defense attorney Robert Paule argued in his closing written argument that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Thao knew Chauvin was committing a crime, or that Thao intended to assist in a crime.

“The death of George Floyd was a tragedy,” Paule wrote. “However, the fact that a tragic death occurred does not make it a criminal act. Thao is innocent of the charges against her because she did not intend for her specific actions to be done to assist in the commission of a crime. Each of Thao’s actions was based on the training she received from the Minneapolis Police Department.»

Paule argued that Thao «reasonably believed» that Floyd was experiencing a controversial set of symptoms known as «excited delirium» and that the actions he took at the scene were intended to help Floyd get medical attention faster because he was trained to see excited delirium as life threatening. She said Thao was unaware that Floyd was not breathing or had no pulse.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank disputed that defense, writing that even witnesses who believe excited delusion exists previously testified that Floyd did not display any of the symptoms.

“Thao knew that his three colleagues were on top of Floyd and were holding him in a prone position,” Frank wrote. “Thao knew that this prone restraint was extremely dangerous because it can cause suffocation, the inability to breathe, the exact condition Floyd repeatedly complained he was suffering from. However, Thao made a conscious decision to aid that dangerous restraint: he actively encouraged the other three officers and aided their crime by holding back concerned bystanders.”

Cahill has 90 days to adjudicate and pass sentence if he finds Thao guilty. He will base his decision on evidence agreed to by both sides: evidence and transcripts from Chauvin’s 2021 murder trial in state court and the federal civil rights trial of Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane last year. Thao was specifically convicted then of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care and failing to intervene and arrest Chauvin.

Thao testified during his federal trial that he relied on the other officers to attend to Floyd’s medical needs while serving as «a human traffic cone» to control crowds and traffic outside a Minneapolis convenience store where Floyd tried to drive past. a counterfeit $20 bill.

Thao told the court that when he and Chauvin arrived, the other officers were wrestling with Floyd. He said it was clear to him, as the other officers tried to put Floyd in a patrol car, «that he was under the influence of some type of drug.»

Video from his body camera shows him at one point telling onlookers: “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids..” When an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter out of uniform arrived and asked if officers had checked Floyd’s pulse, he ordered, «Stand back!»

Thao acknowledged that he heard bystanders becoming increasingly anxious about Floyd’s condition and asked officers to take his pulse. But he said his role was crowd control; there were about 15 passersby. While he acknowledged hearing Floyd say, «I can’t breathe,» he said he didn’t know something was wrong with him, even when an ambulance took him away.

Cahill is already familiar with much of the evidence, having presided over Chauvin’s trial. But the evidence in this case will also include details from the federal trial about Thao’s training and employment history, as well as his interview with investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Detention.

Thao, Kueng and Lane received federal sentences ranging from 3 1/2 years for Thao to 2 1/2 years for Lane and are serving their time in prisons in other states, as is Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to one federal charge. for civil rights and is serving a 21-year sentence that will keep him in prison longer than the 22 1/2-year sentence Cahill gave him on the state second-degree murder charge because he would qualify for parole earlier in the system. state.

Thao is Hmong American, Kueng is black, and Lane is white.

If Thao is convicted of aiding and abetting manslaughter, a more serious murder charge will be dropped with a presumptive sentence of 12 1/2 years. Minnesota guidelines recommend four years on the manslaughter charge. He would serve his state mandate at the same time as his federal sentence.