Defense attorneys for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, have asked a judge to dismiss the murder charges against him, arguing that Floyd's alleged drug use, not the improper use of force by the officer, was to blame for his death.
At the same time, prosecutors in the case against Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers said they plan to seek stiff sentences if the men are convicted. They said in court documents that Floyd was vulnerable because he was handcuffed with his chest pressed against the ground and he was treated "with particular cruelty."
"Despite Mr. Floyd's pleas that he could not breathe and was going to die, as well as the pleas of eyewitnesses to get off Mr. Floyd and help him, Defendant and his co-defendants continued to restrain Mr. Floyd," the prosecutors wrote.
The competing scenarios surrounding Floyd's death were put forth in court documents filed on Friday.
Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for at least eight minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and became motionless. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The other three officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four were fired.
Under the state’s sentencing guidelines, a conviction on second-degree unintentional murder and third-degree murder each carries a presumptive sentence of 12½ years. But a judge can order a sentence ranging up to 15 years without departing from the guidelines. For second-degree manslaughter, the guidelines call for four years in prison or a discretionary range up to 4¾ years.
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Floyd's killing, captured on video, sparked worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality.
Defense attorneys sought to put the blame on Floyd for his death, arguing that his alleged drug use was the crucial factor.
"Put simply, Mr. Floyd could not breathe because he had ingested a lethal dose of fentanyl and, possibly, a speedball," Chauvin's attorney said in the court documents. "Combined with sickle cell trait, his pre-existing heart conditions, Mr. Floyd’s use of fentanyl and methamphetamine most likely killed him."
They argued that without knowledge of Floyd's alleged drug use or symptoms of overdose, Chauvin "was unaware of the potential dangers of using MRT (Maximal Restraint Technique)," a reference to the officer's knee on the victim's neck.
"Instead, he (Chauvin) relied on his training and the information available to him to try and assist his fellow officers and to prevent Mr. Floyd from harming himself," the defense attorneys argued. "Derek Chauvin did not cause George Floyd’s death."
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: George Floyd: Ex-cop Derek Chauvin seeks dismissal of murder charges