Lane’s Reply to Prosecution’s Opposition to Dismissal of Criminal Complaint 

On July 7, the attorney for defendant Thomas Lane filed a motion to dismiss the criminal complaint against him.[1] On August 10 the prosecution filed its papers opposing that motion.[2] On August 17, Lane’s attorney  submitted his reply to the State’s Response.[3]

As noted ,the first two sets of papers have been covered in prior posts. This post will review Mr. Lane’s reply papers.

Legal Standard for Aiding and Abetting Criminal Liability

Both sides necessarily are agreed that the standard for aiding and abetting criminal liability starts with the Minnesota statute on the subject—Minn. Stat. sec. 609.05 (Liability for Crimes of Another), which is derived from legislation adopted in 1963, 1986 and 1991. Its Subdivision 1 states as follows:

“A person is criminally liable for a crime committed by another if the person intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit the crime.”

According to Mr. Lane’s attorney, the “seminal” Minnesota Supreme Court case on this provision is State v. Ulvinen, 313 N.W.2d 425 (1981)(en banc), which reversed a conviction of a mother for aiding and abetting her son’s first degree murder of his wife.

According to the Supreme Court, the son told the police that on the morning of the murder he told his mother, “I’m going to have to choke. . . [his wife] tonight and I’ll have to dispose of her body so that it will never be found.” In response his mother weeped and said, “it will be for the best.” Later that same day, the son told his mother, “Mom, tonight’s got to be the night.” She replied, as she had on other similar occasions, “Oh, you’re just kidding me.  I’m not certain, that it would be the best for the kids.”

The mother was asleep when the son committed the murder and she did not participate in his dismemberment of the body. Afterwards that same night she “came upstairs to intercept the children, should they awake, and prevent them from going into the bathroom. She cooperated with her son by cleaning some items from the bathroom and corroborating David’s story to prevent anyone from finding out about the murder.”

Said the en banc Supreme Court, “ these subsequent actions do not succeed in transforming her behavior prior to the crime to active instigation and encouragement. Minn.Stat. § 609.05, subd. 1 (1980) implies a high level of activity on the part of an aider and abettor in the form of conduct that encourages another to act. Use of terms such as ‘aids,’ ‘advises,’ and ‘conspires’ requires something more of a person than mere inaction to impose liability as a principal.” (Lane’s Reply at 13; emphasis added.)

 In addition, said the Court, the above statute “imposes liability for actions which affect the principal, encouraging him to take a course of action which he might not otherwise have taken. The state has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant was guilty of anything but passive approval. However morally reprehensible it may be to fail to warn someone of their impending death, our statutes do not make such an omission a criminal offense.” In so concluding, the Court said the mother “did not offer advice on how to kill his wife, nor offer to help him. She did not plan when to accomplish the act or tell her son what to do to avoid being caught. She was told by her son that he intended to kill his wife that night and responded in a way which, while not discouraging him, did not aid, advise, or counsel him to act as he did.”

Lane’s attorney also asserted that the above holding of Ulvinin was followed by at least the following subsequent Minnesota Supreme Court cases: (1) State v, Mahkuk, 367 N.W.2d 675, 683 (Minn. Sup. Ct. 2007)(reversal of conviction for aiding and abetting two murder counts because trial court’s jury instruction did not require the jury to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant knew that a crime was going to be committed and intended his presence to encourage or further the crimes); (2) State v. Milton, 821 N.W.2d 789, 804 (Minn. Sup Ct. 2012) (affirmance of conviction of first-degree felony murder and attempted first degree felony murder; defendant failed to show that his substantial rights were affected by the trial court’s plain error in failing to instruct the jury that “intentionally aiding” was required for accomplice liability); (3) State v. Bahtuoh, 840 N.W.2d 804, 812-13 (Minn. Sup Ct. 2013) (affirmance of conviction for accomplice liability for first degree felony murder; the “intentionally aids” requirement has ‘two and necessary principles: . . .that the defendant knew that his alleged accomplices are going to commit a crime’ and . . . that the defendant ‘intended his presence or actions to further the commission of that crime;’”[4] State v. McCallister, 862 N.W.2d 49 (Minn. Sup. Ct. 2015)(affirmance of conviction for aiding and abetting first degree murder and first degree felony murder); (5) State v. Huber, 877 N.W.2d 519, 524 (Minn. Sup. Ct. 2016))(reversal and remand of conviction for intentionally aiding another in committing second degree murder and second degree felony murder on the ground that the instructions on accomplice liability were  plainly erroneous; such an instruction “must explain that to be criminally liable for the crimes of another, the State must prove that the defendant ‘knew his alleged accomplice was going to commit a crime and the defendant intended his presence or actions to further the commission of that crime.’”

Lane’s reply also cites a number of decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which includes Minnesota., but since it is unlikely that any of them concern the Minnesota statute for accessory liability, it should not be necessary to analyze these cases.

Additional Factual Allegations about George Floyd

Lane’s reply contains nine-plus pages reciting additional “facts” about Mr. Floyd that his attorney recently has discovered. Since these “facts” were not known at the police’s May 25th fatal encounter with Mr. Floyd, it is difficult to see how they relate to the complaint for alleged aiding and abetting and if admissible at trial would go to the jury’s weighing all of the evidence.

Conclusion

The Prosecution’s papers opposing the dismissal motion, for this retired attorney without criminal law experience, seem weak on this key requirement for the aiding and abetting charges against  Lane.

This blogger invites anyone who has a more thorough analysis of the issues on Lane’s dismissal motion to add them in comments to this post.

Now we await the September 11 hearing on this motion and other matters in the four criminal cases over the killing of George Floyd.

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[1] Ex-Officer Lane Moves for Dismissal of Criminal Charges for George Floyd Killing, dwkcommentareis.com July 9,  2020); Notice of Motion and Motion To Dismiss, State v. Lane, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Hennepin County District Court July 7, 2020); Memorandum Supporting Motion To Dismiss, State v. Lane, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Hennepin County District Court July 7, 2020).

[2]  State’s Response Opposing Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss for Lack of Probable Cause, State v. Lane, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 10, 2020); Affidavit of Matthew Frank, State v. Lane, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 10, 2020).

[3] Defendant’s Reply to the State’s Response to His Motion To Dismiss, State v. Lane, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 17, 2020); Browning & Xiong, Lawyer for former officer charged as accomplice in killing of George Floyd says he ‘did nothing wrong,’ StarTribune (Aug. 18, 2020); Xiong, Audio of investigators questioning officer [Lane] in George Floyd killing released, StarTribune (Aug. 18, 2020); Read, Attorney for Minneapolis police officer says he’ll argue George Floyd died of an overdose and a heart condition, Los Angeles Times (Aug. 20, 2020).

[4] The Prosecution says that Bahtuoh suggests that Ulvinen’s requirement for a “high level of activity” by an alleged accomplice” is no longer the law. In the opinion of this blogger, however, this is a misreading of Bahtuoh, which merely states,”A jury may infer the requisite state of mind [of an accessory] from a variety of facts, including presence at the scene of the crime, a close association with the principal offender before and after the crime, a lack of objection or surprise under the circumstances, and flight from the scene of the crime with the principal offender.” (Prosecution’s Opposition at n.16, p. 25; emphasis added.)

 

George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the City of Minneapolis Over His Death: Count III       

As noted in a prior post, on July 15, the family of George Floyd filed a federal civil action with two claims (Counts II and III) for money damages against the City of Minneapolis and one claim (Count I) against the four ex-police officers who were involved in Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. This post will discuss Count III.[1] while Counts I and  II were discussed in prior posts.

Legal Basis

Count III is asserted against the City of Minneapolis under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, which states as follows:

  • “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. . . .”

Count III also is based upon so-called “Canton Liability,” which refers to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989), which held that a municipality may be held liable under section 1983 for constitutional violations resulting from its failure to train its employees where such failure to train in a relevant respect amounts to deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of persons with whom the police come into contact.

Factual Allegations

The Parties

“6. Plaintiff Kaarin Nelson Schaffer (“Schaffer”) resides in Hennepin county, Minnesota, and is an attorney duly licensed to practice before the State and Federal; Courts of Minnesota. On July 6, 2020, Schaffer was appointed as trustee for George Floyd’s next of kin.”

“7. Mr. Floyd is survived by next of kin including his children and siblings.”

“8. Minneapolis is and was at all times material hereto a political subdivision of the State of Minnesota, organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of Minnesota.”

“9. The Minneapolis Police Department (“MPD”) is and was at all times material hereto a Minneapolis agency, providing the vehicle through which the City fulfills its policing functions.”

“Count III – 42 U.S.C. §1983 – Canton Liability”

“247. Plaintiff hereby incorporates and re-alleges all preceding paragraphs as though fully pleaded herein.”

“248.Minneapolis failed to properly train or modify its training to Defendant Officers and its other officers, including but not limited to, matters related to the reasonable and appropriate use of force during such arrests, and intervention in the excessive use offorce by fellow officers.”

“249. Effectuating an arrest, using force to effectuate an arrest, and intervening in the use of force is a usual and recurring situation with which Minneapolis law enforcement officers and other agents encounter on a regular basis.”

“250. As such, Minneapolis was aware of a need for more and different training.Minneapolis specifically knew that its officers needed training regarding the use of prone restraint and was required to provide its officers with such training.”

“251. Minneapolis also specifically knew that its officers needed specific training on the use of neck restraints.”

“252. With deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens, Minneapolis failed to provide adequate training to its officers on the use of prone and neck restraint.”

“253.Minneapolis was aware that deprivation of the constitutional rights of citizens was likely to result from its lack of training and the failure to modify its training.”

“254. As such, Minneapolis was deliberately indifferent and exhibited reckless disregard with respect to the potential violation of constitutional rights.”

“255. The failure to train and/or to appropriately modify training constituted official Minneapolis policies, practices, or customs.”

“256. Minneapolis’s failure to train and/or to modify training was behind the acts and omissions the Defendant Officers made toward Mr. Floyd.”

“257. As a direct and proximate result of Minneapolis’s acts and omissions, Mr. Floyd suffered injuries, experienced pain and suffering, and ultimately died.”

“258. As a direct and proximate result of the acts and omissions described herein, Mr. Floyd suffered compensatory and special damages as defined under federal common law and in an amount to be determined by jury.”

“259. Plaintiff is entitled to recovery of costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.”

“260. The conduct described in all of the preceding paragraphs amount to wrongful acts and omissions for purposes of Minnesota Statute Section 573.02, subdivision 1.”

“261. As a direct and proximate result of these wrongful acts and omissions, Mr. Floyd’s next of kin have suffered pecuniary loss, including medical and funeral expenses,loss of aid, counsel, guidance, advice, assistance, protection, and support in an amount to be determined by jury.“

Conclusion

All of the legal references and assertions by the parties, of course, are subject to legal research to determine their current validity in light of any subsequent federal statutes and decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts, especially by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and its direct appellate court (the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit).As previously noted, Count I of this Complaint against the four ex-officers and Count II against the City have been covered in prior posts.[2]

Now we await the defendants’ responses to this Complaint and other further developments in this civil case and in the criminal cases against the four ex-officers.

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[1] Read the lawsuit filed by family of George Floyd against Minneapolis, four ex-police officers, StarTribune (July 15, 2020).

[2] George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the Four Ex-Police Officers Over His Death, dwkcommentaries.com (July  17, 2020); George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the City of Minneapolis Over His Death: Count II, dwkcommentaries.com (July 18, 2020).

 

Minneapolis Public Schools’ Desegregation/Integration Litigation, 1978-1983

As described in a prior post, from 1971 through 1977, the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) were subject to an order to desegregate/integrate its schools and to semiannual court and, therefore, public scrutiny of its compliance with that order. This was an order by Minnesota’s U.S. District Court. (To the left is a photo of the Minneapolis Federal Office Building and U.S. Courthouse, 100 4th Street South, that was the site of this entire litigation. Today it is the Hennepin County Family Justice Center.)

In or about 1978 the MPS School Board, frustrated by the continued bad publicity generated by the case,  decided to hire me as its outside attorney for the case with the objective of having the court end the litigation on the ground that the MPS had done everything that a federal court legitimately could require it to do.[1]

The first such effort was unsuccessful.

In early 1978 I filed a MPS motion to terminate the litigation that was based on the then recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dayton v. Brinkman, 433 U.S. 406 (1977) that held the permissible court injunction in the Dayton, Ohio school desegregation case was limited to eliminating the “incremental segregative effect” of its constitutional violations.

The Minnesota court, however, distinguished the Dayton case and denied the MPS motion on the ground that it had not yet fully implemented its desegregation/integration plan. The court also rejected a MPS proposal to address concerns of the Native American community that will be explored in a subsequent post. [2]

In addition, the court in its May 1978 order rejected the MPS request to increase the allowable maximum minority enrollment in each school to 50% and to eliminate the single minority ceiling requirement. The court did say it had “never regarded the percentage figures [in its orders] as rigid requirements” and that it had set the percentage “guidelines at approximately 20% above the projected total minority student population.” The court then went on to modify its injunction to increase the maximum total minority student of each school to 46% (an increase of 4%) and a single minority’s maximum percentage to 39%(also an increase of 4%).

The MPS then took its only appeal in the 12 years of this litigation. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that that the district court had not abused its discretion in denying the motion to terminate the case. The appellate court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s decision[3]

The MPS then made its only application to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. Two of the petition’s three arguments for such review were that the decisions in the lower courts conflicted with, and misapplied (1) the Supreme Court’s holding that desegregation decrees must be limited to eliminating incremental segregative effect of constitutional violations; and (2) that Court’s allowing modification of desegregation decrees where new circumstances of law or fact had arisen.[4]

The Supreme Court, however, refused to do so.[5]

The second and third efforts to end the case also were unsuccessful.[6]

The fourth motion to terminate the injunction and end the case, however, was granted by Judge Larson on June 8, 1983.[7] The court did so despite opposition by the plaintiffs, who later decided through their attorney, Charles Quaintance, Jr., not to seek a rehearing in the district court or an appeal to the Eighth Circuit.[8]

Dr. Richard Green

Afterwards the MPS Superintendent Richard Green said the decision was “a major moment in the history of the district” and that the MPS would “continue to work with the state department of education [with respect to its desegregation regulations] to show the good faith that was demonstrated by the court.” Green also said the court order had “created a climate for change in the school system that led to better-quality schools.” He specifically mentioned the change from neighborhood schools to ones that drew students from many parts of the city; the increase in student busing; and the creation of alternative programs, including “magnet” schools.[9]

Dr. Green wrote a personal note to me about the end of the litigation. He said, “Without question, the Minneapolis community has now met one of the major tests for equality, and my sense is that your leadership has been a crucial factor.”[10]

I certainly appreciated that kind compliment even though I thought it was unjustified. The successful desegregation/integration of the MPS was due to the efforts of many students, parents, teachers and administrators and of the School Board. The leadership of Dr. Green was the crucial ingredient, and his skills were recognized in 1988 when he became the Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools, the first African-American to hold that position.

I was very saddened when Dr. Green died of asthma in 1989 at the age of 53 after only 14 months as Chancellor.[11] He was honored by a memorial service at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan with a eulogy by then New York City Mayor Edward Koch.

Being the lawyer for the MPS in this litigation obviously was an important professional and civic responsibility and challenge. The MPS was committed to desegregation/integration and to respect for the law and the court’s orders, and yet it wanted to terminate the case. I personally shared these values and commitments and drew inspiration from these words of Learned Hand, one of the preeminent jurists in U.S. history:

  • “[A] society so riven that the spirit of moderation is gone, no court can save; . . . a society where that sprit flourishes, no court need save; . . . in a society which evades its responsibility by thrusting upon the courts the nuture of that spirit, that spirit in the end will perish. What is the spirit of moderation? It is the temper which does not press a partisan advantage to its bitter end, which can understand and will respect the other side, which feels a unity between all citizens . . . which recognizes their common fate and their common aspirations–in a word, which has faith in the sacredness of the individual. . . . [Such a temper and such a faith] are the last flowers of civilization, delicate and easily overrun by the weeds of our sinful human nature . . . . [They] must have the vigor within themselves to withstand the winds and weather of an indifferent and ruthless world; and that it is idle to seek shelter for them in a courtroom. Men must take that temper and that faith with them into the field, into the market-place, into the factory, into the council-room, into their homes; they cannot be imposed; they must be lived. Words will not express them; arguments will not clarify them; decisions will not maintain them. They are the fruit of the wisdom that comes of trial and a pure heart; no one can possess them who has not stood in awe of this mysterious Universe; no one can possess them whom that spectacle has not purged through pity and through fear–pity for the pride and folly which inexorably enmesh men in toils of their own contriving; fear, because that same pride and that same folly lie deep in the recesses of his own soul.”[12]

[1] I have donated my papers relating to this case to the Minnesota Historical Society Libray, St. Paul, Minnesota.

[2] Booker v. Special School District No. 1, 451 F. Supp. 659 (D. Minn. 1978). Four months later, in another case In which I represented the MPS, the same district court granted judgment for the MPS in a challenge to the constitutionality of the MPS decision to close Longfellow School in the southern part of the city. (Hernandez v. Special School Dist. No. 1, No, 4-78-349 (D. Minn. Sept. 13, 1978).)

[3] Booker v. Special School District No. 1, 585 F.2d 347 (8th Cir. 1978).

[4] Petition for Writ of Certiorari, Special School District No. 1 v. Booker (No. 78-__ Sup. Ct. Nov. 10, 1978). The third reason for review relating to the issues regarding Native Americans that will be reviewed in a subsequent post.

[5] Booker v. Special School District No. 1, 433 U.S. 915 (1979).

[6]  Memo Order, Booker v. Special School District No. 1, (D. Minn. May 1, 1980); Memo Order, Booker v. Special School District No. 1, (D. Minn. June 22, 1982). On December 17, 1982 after a semiannual MPS report had been submitted to the court, the MPS Superintendent Richard R. Green sent me a note thanking me on behalf of “the entire School District and community” for my “contribution” in helping the MPS to report total compliance with the court order.

[7] Memo Order, Booker v. Special School District No. 1, (D. Minn. June 8, 1983).

[8]  During the five years of my representation of the MPS in this case, Quaintance and I were professional adversaries without any other relationship. In recent years, however, as fellow members of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, we have become friends.

[9] Paulu, Judge Larson ends court jurisdiction in city public schools’ desegregation, Mpls. Star & Trib. (June 9, 1983); Pinney, Case kept desegregation effort aimed toward stability, Mpls. Star & Trib. (June 9, 1983).

[10] Letter, Dr. Richard R. Green to Duane Krohnke (June 16, 1983).

[11] A park in Brooklyn, New York was named in his honor.

[12] Learned Hand, The Sprit of Liberty, at 164-65 (3d ed.; Univ. Chicago Press; Chicago 1977).

Minnesota’s Federal Court

Federal Courthouse, Minneapolis
Courtroom, Federal Courthouse, Minneapolis

The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota is the federal court in the State. It and the 93 other U.S. district courts are the trial courts of the federal court system. Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters.[1]

The Minnesota federal court has four federal courthouses in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth and Fergus Falls although the last one does not have any regularly assigned federal judges.[2]

The Minnesota court has seven judgeships authorized by federal statutes. There are 670 other such federal district court judgeships in the U.S. All of the people who hold these judgeships are appointed for life by the President of the U.S. after advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.[3] They exercise the full powers of the district courts.

Five of the seven U.S. District Judges for the Minnesota court have their chambers at the Minneapolis federal courthouse; they are Joan N. Ericksen, Michael J. Davis, John R. Tunheim, Patrick J. Schiltz and Ann D. Montgomery. In the St. Paul federal courthouse they are Donovan W. Frank and Susan Richard Nelson. They are joined by four Senior U.S. District Judges, who also continue to take cases: Donald D. Alsop, Paul A. Magnuson and Richard H. Kyle in St. Paul and David S. Doty in Minneapolis.[4]

The Court also has nine United States Magistrate Judges, who are appointed by the Judges of the U.S. District Court for a term of eight years and who are eligible for reappointment to successive terms. The Magistrate Judges at the U. S. District Court in St. Paul are Janie S. Mayerson, Jeanne J. Graham, Jeffrey J. Keyes and Tony N. Leung; at the Minneapolis federal courthouse they are Arthur J. Boylan (Senior Magistrate Judge), Franklin L. Noel and Steven F. Rau. Leo J. Brisbois serves in the Duluth federal courthouse; and Mary Kay Klein is part-time in Bemidji.[5] The magistrate judges have more limited roles then the judges and may try cases only with the consent of the parties.[6]

In 1986 the District Court appointed District Judge Diana E. Murphy and me as co-chairs of the Bicentennial of the Constitution Committee for the District of Minnesota. We produced a history of the Court and sponsored and organized a seminar on constitutional law, a lecture and discussion on “Religion and the Constitution” and videotaped interviews of the sitting judges.[7]


[1] United States Courts, District courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/; 28 U.S.C. ch. 85 (jurisdiction). The more populous states have more than one federal district court. For example, the State of New York has four: Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Districts. (28 U.S.C. § 112.)

[2] U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Minn., Courthouses, http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/Courthouses.shtml.

[3] U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Minn., Judges, http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/judges.shtml; United States Courts, Federal Judgeships, http://www.uscourts.gov/JudgesAndJudgeships/.

[4]  Id.

[5]  Id.

[6] 28 U.S.C. ch.43.

[7]  Murphy & Krohnke, The Minnesota Federal Court Embarks on Bicentennial Projects, Hennepin Lawyer, May-June 1987 at 10; History of the U.S. Court for the District of Minnesota (1989),   http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/History. Since October 1994, Judge Murphy has been a U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which handles appeals from the Minnesota federal court as well as the federal district courts in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas. (Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges, http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/newcoa/judge.htm; 28 U.S.C. § 41; 28 U.S.C. ch. 83.) Appeals from the Eighth Circuit go to the U.S. Supreme Court when the latter agrees to take the case. (28 U.S.C. § 1254.)