Judge reinstates third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s
Chauvin already faced charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
“The charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury.”
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement Thursday night that they are “gratified” the judge has included a third-degree murder charge.
“The trial is very painful and the family needs closure. We’re pleased that all judicial avenues are being explored and that the trial will move forward,” the statement read.
In court on Thursday, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Noor’s case was factually and procedurally different than Chauvin’s interactions with Floyd, in which he knelt on Floyd’s head and neck area for an extended period. However, prosecutors argued that the judge was bound to follow the appeals court’s precedent in Noor.
Judge Cahill ruled Thursday morning that he accepted the appeals court’s ruling that the opinion in Noor’s case immediately set a precedent, and he ruled to reinstate the charge.
He added 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.
What the charges mean
The second-degree murder charge alleges that Chauvin unintentionally caused Floyd’s death while committing third-degree assault, and the second-degree manslaughter charge alleges that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by his “culpable negligence.”
The charges are to be considered separate, so Chauvin could be convicted of all, some or none of them.
David Weinstein, a former prosecutor who has closely followed the case, said that the charges each represent a different level of intent, so jurors will have more options to consider during deliberations.
“Choices like this can also allow for a compromise verdict by the jury,” he said. “The defense would have preferred an all or nothing choice for jurors.”