Judge reinstates third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's death
As of Thursday (March 11) morning, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin now faces an additional murder charge in the death of George Floyd.
According to CNN, the decision was made by a Hennepin County judge, who reinstated a count of third-degree murder.
The news outlet notes that Chauvin already faced charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter, and jury selection in his trial began Tuesday.
The added charge gives prosecutors a third potential pathway to conviction in the closely watched case at the heavily fortified Hennepin County Government Center.
Chauvin, who pleaded not guilty, was initially charged with third-degree murder in the days after Floyd's May 2020 death, but Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the count in October, saying it did not apply to this case.
The charge was recently used in the trial against former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor, who was convicted 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 very different from Chauvin's interaction with Floyd, a situation that involved Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's head and neck area for an extended period. But, prosecutors argued that the judge was required to follow the appeals court's precedent in Noor.
Judge Cahill ruled Thursday that he accepts the appeals court ruling that the opinion in Noor's case immediately set a precedent, and so he ruled to reinstate the charge.
He also said that the third-degree murder charge only applied to Chauvin and that the potential to reinstate the charge for the three other officers charged in Floyd's death will be addressed at a later date.
"This charge has not come out of left field," Cahill said Thursday. "It was originally charged. I think the defense has been aware that the state will take every opportunity to try and add it back."
Floyd's death was captured on video obtained from police and bystanders, and circulation of the video 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 charged in Floyd's death, and Chauvin is being tried separately as a result of pandemic-related limits on courtroom space.
If convicted, Chauvin may 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.