Judge OKs Third-Degree Murder Charge Against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd Death

A judge on Thursday granted prosecutors’ request to add a third-degree murder charge against a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, a move that offers jurors an additional option for conviction and finally resolves an issue that might have delayed his trial for months. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill reinstated the charge after the former officer, Derek Chauvin, failed to get appellate courts to block it. Cahill had earlier rejected the charge as not warranted by the circumstances of Floyd’s death, but an appellate court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds for it. Chauvin already faced second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. Legal experts say the additional charge helps prosecutors by giving jurors one more option to convict Chauvin of murder. The dispute over the third-degree murder charge revolved around wording in the law that references an act “eminently dangerous to others.” Cahill had earlier dismissed the charge as not appropriate for the case, where Chauvin’s conduct might be construed as not dangerous to anyone but Floyd. But prosecutors sought to revive the charge after the state’s Court of Appeals recently upheld the third-degree murder conviction of another former Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor, in the 2017 killing of an Australian woman. They argued that the ruling established precedent that a third-degree murder charge may be brought even in a case where only a single person is endangered. Arguments over when precedent from former officer Mohamed Noor’s case took effect went swiftly to the state’s Supreme Court, which on Wednesday said it would not consider Chauvin’s appeal of the matter. Cahill said Thursday he accepts that precedent is now clear. Floyd was declared dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the Black man’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, leading to a nationwide reckoning on race. The ruling came ahead of resumption of jury selection Thursday. Five jurors have been seated after just two days of screening by attorneys and the judge, who has set aside at least three weeks to fill the panel.
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