George Floyd killed himself, an attorney representing one of the police officers accused of murdering him told The Los Angeles Times. It's the line of defense Thomas Lane's lawyer hopes will convince a jury to acquit the former Minneapolis police officer.
Lane is accused, along with Alexander Keung, of helping hold down Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old African American man, while fellow officer Derek Chauvin allegedly pressed his knee into his neck for over eight minutes, after which he died. A fourth officer, Tou Thao, kept onlookers at bay during the incident.
Two autopsies have since confirmed that his death was a homicide.
However, Lane's defense attorney Earl Gray says that his death was more akin to a suicide than a homicide.
"None of these guys — even Chauvin — actually killed him. He killed himself," Gray said.
Specifically, Gray says that toxicology and autopsy reports, as well as recently released police body camera footage, paint a more complete picture of the circumstances surrounding Floyd's death than what cellphone video captured by bystanders shows.
As NPR News reported in June, the full autopsy report on Floyd revealed that he was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The report also indicated that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, although the drugs are not listed as the cause.
Similarly, as Floyd was being restrained, he purportedly admitted to being on drugs. When asked whether he was "on something," Floyd allegedly admitted to "hooping" -- slang for being on drugs.
Gray said he intends to show that it was the combination of fentanyl and an underlying heart condition that caused Floyd's death, not the actions of the Minneapolis police officers.
"We are going to show that my client and the other cops were doing their jobs," he said.
Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminologist and former police officer who studies police misconduct, said that Gray's line of defense just might resonate with jurors.
"This is not a slam dunk for the prosecution and not an easy case," he said, noting that if a police officer takes the stand in his own defense, a jury may be sympathetic.
In contrast, Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hart pointed out that focusing on fentanyl in Floyd's system may be a red herring for the defense. The human response to such drugs is far too complex to lend itself to ready conclusions, he said.
"If the officer didn't put his knee on George Floyd's neck, he would most likely be alive today," he noted.