Earl Gray, the attorney for Thomas Lane, reveals the line of defense he will use against the charge that his client aided and abetted the murder of George Floyd. 

The attorney engaged in a heated debate with the hosts of Good Morning Britain, exercising the line of defense for his client on air. According to Gray, his client did “nothing wrong,” as one of two officers holding George Floyd down while his colleague Chauvin suffocated him. Gray attempted to address objections raised by Morgan and Reid over the ‘humane’ reaction to a murder, the ‘duty to intervene,’ and the relative authority of Lane and Chauvin.

In court and his Good Morning Britain interview, attorney Gray added that Lane tried to resuscitate Floyd in the ambulance after the encounter. This serves to challenge the facet of aiding and abetting, which requires “willful intent” to commit said crime. Lane’s attempt to resuscitate Floyd, Gray will argue, demonstrates that he had no intent to murder George Floyd. 

After being challenged by co-hosts Morgan and Reid, who argued that a ‘humane reaction’ and police protocol required Lane to intervene further, Gray’s interview became an argument, with the attorney accusing the hosts of being biased and slamming.

Gray’s defense is based on his client’s status as a “rookie” cop, compared to Chauvin’s 20 years on the force. Appearing in court Thursday afternoon, Lane’s attorney argued that physical intervention in Chauvin’s actions would have been “absurd.” Gray said “If three cops are trying to restrain somebody and one doesn’t agree, well that one cop should go beat up the other two cops and let the guy go? That’s absurd.” Gray’s strategy appears to be highlighting the action Lane took, in asking Chauvin to “rollover” Floyd, and arguing that further intervention was not a real possibility, especially for a “rookie.” 

Duty to Intervene

Gray claims that his client did not have experience or authority comparable to that of officer Chauvin. 

“Thomas Lane was on his fourth day of being a police officer. Chauvin had 20 years as a police officer…a police department is run like military service, you have officers, you have experienced police officers, and then you have rookies and you have officers that are on the job four days,” attorney Gray said on Good Morning Britain.

 This line of defense has already appeared as a part of Gray’s strategy in court. He said to the Hennepin County District Court judge on Thursday “They’re required to call [Chauvin] ‘Sir.’ He has 20 years’ experience. What is my client supposed to do but follow what the training officer said? Is that aiding and abetting a crime?”

Gray’s argument that officer Lane did not have the authority to intervene, Reid tried to push back by saying  “there is a policy, in the police force, that is a duty to intervene, saying officers are required to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.”

Gray is correct in comparing the policy of the American military, which has a similar policy requiring officers to disobey illegal orders from superior officers. The Manual for Court Martial, a Defense Department document detailing military court policy, states that officers must disobey orders which are “manifestly” or “patently” illegal.

Lane: ‘Shall we roll him over?’

Gray argued that his client exercised his duty to intervene to the furthest appropriate extent, by asking Chauvin if he should ‘rollover’ Floyd, to help his breathing. Gray said on Good Morning Britain that “in any event, my client said twice ‘Shall we roll him over?’” 

Piers Morgan insisted that “he must have heard George Floyd crying out 16 times in 5 minutes that he couldn’t breathe. 

“When you hear a human being say ‘I can’t breathe’ a number of times, why don’t you just say ‘This guy can’t breathe, we have to stop him dying?’”, Morgan said. 

Gray responded angrily, moving closer to the camera. “Well, what would you have done? He said ‘Should we roll him over?’” Piers replied “You know what I would have done? I would have got up and said ‘I’m really sorry. This guy is dying in front of us and I’m not going to be a party to it.’ That’s what a humane reaction would be.”

“That’s very good hindsight, but you’re not a police officer…a police officer is trained to follow orders and his belief that they were doing right.” Gray pushed against Piers in the exchange, which was quickly devolving into a heated argument.

What goes through a police officer’s head?

In response to Reid repeating the language in Minneapolis’ “duty to intervene” policy, Gray accused her of being “very opinionated and biased.” 

 “You obviously are very opinionated and biased. What you do not understand is what goes through the head of a police officer on his fourth day in a situation where the individual he had arrested was under the influence of drugs, he was resisting being handcuffed,” the attorney said. 

Morgan and Gray talked over each other, making it difficult to make out either’s commentary. Morgan, in one of his comments, then referred to George Floyd as a “Black man,” and Gray responded “Oh really? Now you put the race issue into it? There is no race issue here. Two of the four officers, one was Black and the other one’s Asian. Answer that one.”

 “I don’t have to answer that one,” Piers Morgan snapped back. Gray, apparently further angered by this comment replied “you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go to bed. Goodnight.” He slammed the laptop shut, ending the interview.

Ava DeSantis

Ava DeSantis is Gen Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today. She has a background in political science and history at George Washington University.