Derek Chauvin is already charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, as well as second-degree manslaughter.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill has reinstated a third-degree murder charge against the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd.
Cahill granted the request from prosecutors to reinstate the charge after the former officer, Derek Chauvin, failed to get the state Supreme Court to block it.
Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes May 25, is already charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Cahill dismissed the charge last fall because he believed that the circumstances of Chauvin’s case did not fit, but an appellate ruling in an unrelated case provided new grounds for it days before the trial started. Cahill ruled at the time that a third-degree murder charge under Minnesota law requires proof that someone’s conduct was “eminently dangerous to others,” not just to Floyd.
An appeals court ruled Friday that Cahill erred when he rejected a prosecution motion to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin in October and ordered him to reconsider. Friday’s ruling said Cahill should have followed the precedent set by the appeals court last month when it affirmed the third-degree murder conviction of former officer Mohamed Noor in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault happening.
“This court’s precedential opinion in Noor became binding authority on the date it was filed,” a three-judge panel said in its ruling Friday. “The district court therefore erred by concluding that it was not bound by the principles of law set forth in Noor and by denying the state’s motion to reinstate the charge of third-degree murder on that basis.”
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, had asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to reconsider Friday’s ruling. On Wednesday, the state’s Supreme Court denied Chauvin’s effort to block the charge.
In a statement Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting Chauvin, said: “We believe the charge of 3rd-degree murder is fair and appropriate. We look forward to putting it before the jury, along with charges of 2nd-degree unintentional murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter.”
On May 25, Floyd, a Black man, was arrested after a convenience store clerk claimed he used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed. Chauvin remained in that position for about nine minutes, even as Floyd said that he couldn’t breathe. The incident was recorded by a bystander and widely shared on social media. Floyd’s death set off a series of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Five jurors have been seated after just two days of screening — three white men, one woman of color and a Black man.
Opening statements are likely to begin on March 29 as scheduled.
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