Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will now face two murder counts, as well as one of manslaughter, in connection with the death of George Floyd.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill had originally dismissed the third-degree murder charge in October but revised that opinion after arguments occurring on Thursday morning.
The discussion centered around a precedent offered by a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, which led to the initial ruling being overturned and sent back to Cahill for reconsideration.
“I denied the motion initially because of my disagreement, but not without first checking to see if I was duty-bound to follow it as precedent,” Cahill said, according to ABC News.
“Now, based on the defendant’s appeal, the Court of Appeals has made it very clear: Yes, I was bound from the moment the appeal was filed. And I accept that.”
In February, the Court of Appeals ruled that a third-degree murder charge was an appropriate charge in the 2017 case of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. That led the prosecution in Chauvin’s case to insist the charge be restored, according to KMSP-TV.
As @rroiphe points out, because the Murder 2 charge in Minnesota is felony murder, the prosecution needn’t prove intent to kill, but rather intent to assault Floyd. Proof of intent in excessive force cases is very difficult & the Murder 3 charge may be a better option.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) March 11, 2021
Neal Katyal, a co-counsel for the state of Minnesota, said Cahill had to reinstate the charge, given past court actions. Until the ruling in Noor’s case, third-degree murder in Minnesota only could be used as a charge if more than one person was put in danger.
Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson insisted that facts in the cases were different because Noor used a gun to kill a bystander he thought was a threat. Chauvin is accused of causing Floyd’s death by kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
“Factually, there is no instrumentality here other than arguably Mr. Chauvin’s knee,” Nelson said, according to ABC.
Derek Chauvin’s trial is already a farce.
You’d get fairer proceeding in Tehran.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) March 11, 2021
Cahill said he believed that he did not have the discretion to block the charge from being added to others against Chauvin — who now faces second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
“The court of appeals has said in a precedential opinion specifying the single-person rule applies to third-degree murder. I feel bound by that and I feel it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion,” Cahill said.
Cahill said the defense should not have been surprised by the addition of the charge.
“This charge has not come out of left field,” Cahill said, according to WBRZ-TV.
“It was originally charged. I think the defense has been aware that the state will take every opportunity to try and add it back.”
This is the right decision. It’s just what I urged at the time, as did @ALBERTTGOINS1, my favorite expert in Minnesota criminal law and procedure, whose advice I tend to follow on all such matters https://t.co/lroUl04cBG
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) March 11, 2021
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is leading the prosecution, praised the ruling.
“The charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin,” Ellison said in a statement, CNN reported.
“We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury.”
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