Derek Chauvin trial: Judge reinstates third-degree murder charge in George Floyd’s death

Derek Chauvin trial: Judge reinstates third-degree murder charge in George Floyd's death

Chauvin already faced charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter, and jury selection in his trial began Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty. It’s unclear if the new charge could impact the trial’s expected start date of March 29.

Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder in the days after Floyd’s death, but Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the count in October, saying it did not apply to the circumstances of this case. The state appealed that ruling and the Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered Cahill to reconsider the motion to reinstate the charge last week.
The third-degree murder charge, sometimes known as “depraved mind” murder, was most recently used in the trial against former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor. He was convicted of the charge after prosecutors said he fired his gun at a person outside of his squad car’s window, killing Justine Ruszczyk and endangering his own partner.

Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson argued in court Thursday that Noor’s case was factually and procedurally different than Chauvin’s interactions with Floyd, in which he knelt on Floyd’s head and neck area for an extended period. However, prosecutors said the judge was bound to follow the appeals court’s precedent.

Floyd’s final moments were captured on disturbing police and bystander video, and his death led to unrest and fires in the city as well as worldwide protests against police brutality and racism. All four officers involved were fired, and Chauvin is being tried separately due to coronavirus-related limits on courtroom space.
According to Minnesota law, the maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 40 years and for third-degree murder it is 25 years.

How we got here

In October, Judge Cahill dropped the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, ruling the charge can “be sustained only in situations in which the defendant’s actions were ’eminently dangerous to other persons’ and were not specifically directed at the particular person whose death occurred.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a motion last month asking a district court judge to reinstate the charge, saying that Noor’s sentencing “is precedential and now provides this Court with clear guidance regarding the elements of third-degree murder.”

Appellate court Judge Michelle Larkin wrote the district court “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.”

“We therefore reverse the district court’s order and remand for the district court to reconsider the state’s motion to reinstate the third-degree murder charge in light of this court’s precedential opinion in Noor,” Larkin wrote for the panel of three judges.

In a statement to CNN, Ellison said: “We believe the Court of Appeals decided this matter correctly. We believe the charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin.”

CNN’s Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

Source: CNN – US News

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