On August 4, 2023, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit unanimously affirmed the conviction of Tou Thao by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota for violating the civil rights of George Floyd during the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin.
The appellate opinion by Circuit Judge Jonathan Kobes, which was joined by Circuit Judges James Loken and Ralph Erickson, agreed with District Court Judge Paul Magnuson, after trial, that prosecutors had supplied sufficient evidence to support convictions on two counts of depriving Floyd’s rights under color of law — charges that Thao failed to intervene in Derek Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force and that Thao was “deliberately indifferent to Floyd’s medical needs.”
The Eighth Circuit also held that although evidence of Thao’s deliberate indifference was “not overwhelming,” a reasonable jury could find that Thao acted willfully, based on his knowledge and training, by failing to give Floyd medical aid.
The appellate opinion also rejected Thao’s argument that he was innocent because Floyd arguably was experiencing excited delirium since under MPD policy, neck restraints are inappropriate once the detainee stops resisting, even when a detainee is experiencing excited delirium.
Therefore, the Eighth Circuit concluded that “there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that Thao acted willfully on both [section] 242 counts and that any prosecutorial misconduct did not deprive Thao of his right to a fair trial.” Thus, the district court was affirmed.
Afterwards Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, said, “I have the utmost respect for the court but I vehemently disagree with this decision and Mr. Thao will continue to pursue every possible avenue for relief in this case.” The only possible ways for seeking such relief are asking the Eighth Circuit en banc to review the case or to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for such review. In this blogger’s opinion, both of these options would be unsuccessful.
 Montemayor, Appeals court affirms federal conviction of Tou Thao in George Floyd’s killing, StarTribune (Aug. 4, 2023); Opinion, U.S. Court of Appeals for Eighth Circuit, U.S. v. Thao, Case No. 22-2201 (Aug. 4, 2023).
The District Court had tried together three of the ex-MPD officers (Thao, Lane and Kueng), and on February 24, 2022, the jury returned a verdict that all three were guilty of all charges. (Federal Criminal Trial for Killing of George Floyd: Jury Deliberations and Verdict, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 25, 2022).) Then on July 27, 2022, District Judge Paul Magnusson sentenced Thao to 3 ½ years imprisonment, Kueng to three years imprisonment and Lane to 2 ½ years imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release. (Completion of Federal Criminal Cases Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (July 27, 2022).)