Appeals court to weigh 3rd-degree murder charge for Chauvin

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has agreed to consider a request from prosecutors to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against the fired Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death.

Derek Chauvin

Jury selection begins March 8 for Derek Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. The appeals court set oral arguments for March 1 on adding the charge.

Last October, Judge Peter Cahill dismissed a third-degree murder charge, which would require proof that someone’s conduct was “eminently dangerous to others,” not just to Floyd. Cahill said there was no evidence that Chauvin’s actions were dangerous to anyone else.

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Prosecutors asked Cahill to restore the charge earlier this month. They cited a three-judge appeals court panel that upheld a third-degree murder conviction against former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor for the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed Australian woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault. In the Noor decision, the panel ruled that a third-degree murder conviction can be sustained even if the action that caused a death was directed at one person.

Cahill rejected the request, saying the Noor ruling won’t be established precedent until after further proceedings before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and saying he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race. Three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and are scheduled to face trial in August.