Derek Chauvin’s Charges, Explained

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. FR says:

    It seems one of the more important parts of this case is that Floyd was already handcuffed. If you are arguing the need to have your knee on him isn’t assault, you’d have to make the argument it’s a part of the apprehension. It seems unlikely that would be the case here.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to FR says:

      That’s the rub, once the handcuffs are on, it’s game over. The person is restrained and in custody, the officers now have an obligation to keep them as healthy as reasonably possible.

      So Chauvin should have to demonstrate a reasonable concern that Floyd was somehow still a threat to officers or the public while handcuffed on the ground (like he was a well known contortionist and expert martial artist).Report

      • Em Carpenter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        There are statements that they had been trying to get him in the car after he was handcuffed and were unable to due to his resistance, which led to the scuffle on the ground. I also read that one of the officers got a hobble restraint out but someone, maybe Chauvin? opted to continue with physical restraint rather than use it.Report

        • Freeman in reply to Em Carpenter says:

          The original criminal complaint against Chauvin states “The defendant pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m. and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed.” The wording of the complaint isn’t as clear as it might be, but it seems to strongly suggest that they had their suspect restrained, in custody, and in the back of the squad car where they wanted him before Chauvin’s assault on him described in the complaint took place. IANAL, but as a juror I would would find these circumstances supportive of the second-degree felony murder charge.

          It has come out that Kueng and Lane were fairly green rookies and Chauvin was their training officer. Lane in particular, who made several attempts to change the course of action, may have a reasonably strong defense. As a juror I would have sympathy for the position he was put in.Report

      • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        This may be the ‘right’ answer in a certain cosmic sense but I’m skeptical it’s supported by applicable authority. In fact I strongly suspect there is case law in MN on the issue of whether some rough treatment by the police during arrest is an assault. I also strongly suspect that case law is not favorable to the state.

        I’m glad Em wrote this up. It clarifies the 2nd degree murder charge in a very important way. I still think the 3rd degree option was a better avenue to conviction. Like I said in the other thread I don’t know how merger works in MN (or if they recognize the doctrine) but charging this wrong to satiate the passions of people who don’t understand the law could result in the guy walking. And imagine how that would play out.

        Again, far be it from me to question the decisions of attorneys in a state where I don’t and never have practiced but I have a bad feeling about this.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to InMD says:

          You are expressing my thoughts on this exactly. Much like the Freddy Grey case and the officers being aquited, I can see this happening here. But, 3rd comes across as nowhere near enough of a charge.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Aaron David says:

            3rd Degree is the charge for when a cop kills a citizen who is not a cop on camera.Report

          • Slade the Leveller in reply to Aaron David says:

            I’d rather see a slam dunk case on this than see some prosecutorial grandstanding. I don’t know what the typical MN sentence is for 3rd degree murder, but a max of 25 years is a lot. (I know that won’t be the sentence.)Report

            • Aaron David in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

              Oh, that is definately my thought as well. But there are a lot of people who, rightly or wrongly, will feel that 3rd isn’t enough, and that it should be pushed much further.Report

            • Em Carpenter in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

              Someone on Twitter pointed out that there is some case law that 3rd degree can’t be used when the defendant had a specific target. If that’s the case then 2nd may be more appropriate after all. But then again, an (admittedly quick) look at the caselaw shows that they’re really inconsistent about it. Report

        • InMD in reply to InMD says:

          Also Em just saw your response to me on the other post, thanks again for all the work you do keeping these discussions grounded in actual law. It keeps OT head and shoulders above every other non-specifically-legal site I know of. And really better than some lawyer sites for that matter.Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    Thanks for writing this up, Em. Very useful info.Report

  3. This is one of those situations where the jury will “have to” convict. I, too, believe it should convict.

    But let’s just remember that we’ve already decided what the outcome *should* be. That gives me pause. Such “pause” comes just as cheaply as my outrage. I’ve decided he’s guilty. Others have, too. Regardless, my life and the “system” will continue on.Report

    • Slade the Leveller in reply to gabriel conroy says:

      I remember the day the Jason Van Dyke verdict was handed down in the Laquan McDonald trial here in Chicago. The whole city was on the edge of its seat. I’ve never felt that nervous about a criminal trial in my life.

      If Chauvin is acquitted, I don’t want to be anywhere in the United States for a few weeks.Report

      • I didn’t realize you lived in Chicago. That’s “Big City” for me. Do you live in the suburbs or the city? I hope you’re neighborhood hasn’t been touched by the recent lootings. Mine wasn’t, for the most part, though about a mile from me it was pretty bad (or so I hear, I haven’t gone there to look).Report

  1. April 20, 2021

    […] Back when the charges were first announced, Em Carpenter broke down the charges: […]Report