The former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin now faces an added murder charge in George Floyd’s death after a Hennepin County judge reestablished a count of third-degree murder on Thursday.
Chauvin was already facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. Also, he has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
The additional charge provides prosecutors with a third potential pathway to the conviction in the closely observed case, which began Tuesday with jury selection at the heavily fortified Hennepin County Government Center.
“The charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr Chauvin,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison mentioned in a statement. “We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury.”
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci remarked in a statement Thursday night that they are “gratified” the judge has encompassed a third-degree murder charge.
“The trial is very painful, and the family needs closure. We’re pleased that all judicial avenues are being explored and that the trial will move forward,” the statement recited.
Chauvin was earlier charged with third-degree murder in the days after Floyd’s May 2020 death. However, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill discharged the count in October, saying it did not apply to this case.
But, an Appeals court ruling in February in the case against former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor unlocked the door to replacing the charge against Chauvin. The state consequently filed an appeal of Cahill’s ruling.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals commanded Cahill to revisit the motion to reinstate the charge last week. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined a request by Chauvin’s attorney to block the appellate court’s verdict, clearing the way for Cahill to reinstate the charge.
In court on Thursday, Chauvin’s defence attorney Eric Nelson claimed that Noor’s case was factually and procedurally, unlike Chauvin’s interactions with Floyd. He knelt on Floyd’s head and neck area for a prolonged period. But, prosecutors contended that the judge was bound to follow the appeals court’s precedent in Noor.
Judge Cahill clarified Thursday morning that he recognized the appeals court’s ruling that the opinion in Noor’s case instantly set a precedent, and he ruled to reinstate the charge.
Additionally, he said that the third-degree murder charge only theoretical to Chauvin. The possibility of reinstating the charge for the three other officers charged in Floyd’s death will be looked at later.
Third-degree murder, also sometimes referred to as “depraved mind” or “depraved-heart” murder, usually applies to a case in which an individual does something hazardous to others without consideration for human life, like randomly firing into a crowd or driving on the wrong side of the road.
The second-degree murder charge asserts that Chauvin inadvertently caused Floyd’s death while committing third-degree assault and the second-degree manslaughter charge claims that Chauvin triggered Floyd’s death by his “culpable negligence.”
The above charges are to be considered distinct so that Chauvin could be condemned of all, some or none of them. If found guilty, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.