3rd Degree Murder Charge Reinstated in Derek Chauvin Trial
In the first major development in the Derek Chauvin trial for the death of George Floyd, the judge has reinstated the third degree murder charge.
The decision was a victory for prosecutors who had sought to reinstate the charge against Derek Chauvin, the White officer filmed with his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during a police investigation last May. He is already charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the Black man’s death.
The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd reinstated a third-degree murder charge on March 11. (The Washington Post)
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to take up the appeal filed by Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, seeking to overturn a state Court of Appeals ruling that ordered Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is overseeing the trial, to reconsider a third-degree murder charge in the case. The appellate court issued a final judgment in the case and then sent the issue back to Cahill, who heard arguments on the issue Thursday morning.
Cahill threw out the charge in the fall and declined to reinstate it last month, arguing the statute requires the fatal action to be “eminently dangerous to others.”
“The evidence presented by prosecutors so far has only shown that Chauvin’s actions were eminently dangerous to Floyd,” Cahill said in an October ruling.
Nelson pointed to Cahill’s past rulings and argued the case cited in the appellate court decision ordering the judge to reconsider the charge against Chauvin was “factually different” from the circumstances around Floyd’s death.
In that case, former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter after he shot and killed a woman in 2017 as she approached his squad car after making a 911 call about a possible sexual assault behind her home. The court of appeals last month rejected Noor’s effort have his conviction thrown out — a ruling that established third-degree murder as precedent and led prosecutors in the Chauvin case to reinstate the charge.
Nelson argued the Cahill had “inherent discretion” to continue to reject the charge.
But Cahill disagreed, saying he was “duty bound” to accept the appellate court ruling and their read of the statute. He said that although the Noor and Chauvin cases are different — Noor was convicted of killing someone with a gun and Chauvin is accused of killing someone with his knee — the appellate court had decided that “single acts directed at a single person fall within the gamut” of third-degree murder.
“I am granting the motion because although these cases are factually different … I don’t think there is factual difference that denies the motion to reinstate,” Cahill said. “The court of appeals has said in a precedential opinion specifying the single person rule applies to third-degree murder … I feel it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion.”