On Thursday, the Hennepin County judge reinstated a third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin after George Floyd’s death. In addition to the second-degree murder charges already filed against Chauvin, he is being charged with manslaughter. To all three charges, he has pleaded not guilty.
There is a third potential path for conviction with the amended charge, which prosecutors are pushing at the Hennepin County Government Center, where jury selection began Tuesday.
According to Assistant Attorney General Keith Ellison, the addition of the third-degree murder charge to the felony murder and manslaughter charges against Chauvin reflects the gravity of the charges against him. He added that they look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury.
A few days after Floyd’s May 2020 death, Chauvin faced charges of third-degree murder, but the charge was dismissed on October 22 by Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill.
However, the case against former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor was overturned in February by an appeals court, after which the state decided to appeal Cahill’s decision.
Cahill was ordered last week by Minnesota’s Court of Appeals to reconsider its motion to reinstate the charge. An attorney for Chauvin requested the Minnesota Supreme Court to block the appellate court decision. The request was rejected, allowing Cahill to reinstate the charge.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, argued in court on Thursday that the facts and those procedures of Noor’s case were quite different from those of Chauvin’s interactions with Floyd, in which he knelt on Floyd’s head and neck for a long period.
Prosecutors, however, asserted that the judge must follow the precedent established by the appeals court in Noor.
In a ruling given on Thursday, Judge Cahill said that he agreed with the appeals court’s decision that Noor’s opinion immediately sets a precedent. In his opinion, the rule should be reinstated.
Among the officers involved in Floyd’s killing, Chauvin was the only one charged with murder in the third degree, and a later review will consider whether to reinstate the charge for the others.
In general, third-degree murder means that a person intentionally hurts somebody with total disregard for their personal safety, such as driving on the wrong side of the road or shooting into a crowd.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and third-degree assault for causing Floyd’s death unintentionally, according to the felony charge. A second-degree manslaughter charge, which Chauvin faces, alleges that Floyd died due to his own culpable negligence.
If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 10 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 40 years for second-degree murder,
Former prosecutor David Weinstein pointed out that each of the charges has a different level of intent, so juries will be able to consider more options during deliberations. He added that choices of this nature could also lead to compromise verdicts by juries, and the defense favors all-or-nothing decisions for jurors.
Rachel Lott is a Reporter for Chroniclex After graduating from Cuyahoga Community College, Rachel got an internship at USA Evening and worked as a Reporter and Producer. Rachel has also worked as a Reporter for WKYC TV and Fox News Channel. Rachel Covers International Developments.