George Floyd Prosecutors Push To Add Third-Degree Murder Charges Against Officers Involved In His Death
Prosecutors have pushed for third-degree murder charges to be reinstated against the officers involved in the death of George Floyd.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill earlier dismissed a third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, leaving him with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
On Thursday, February 4, lawyers in Minnesota filed a motion requesting the charge be added to Chauvin’s criminal complaint once again, as well as reinstating it against the three other officers involved: J. Alexander Kueng; Thomas Lane; and Tou Thao.
Kueng, Lane and Thao are currently charged with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
As reported by The Star Tribune, Matthew Frank, acting on behalf of Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office, said the recent sentencing of former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor ‘is precedential and now provides this court with clear guidance regarding the elements of third-degree murder’.
Noor was imprisoned for 12.5 years back in June 2019 for the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond while responding to her emergency call. He was convicted on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges, a decision upheld by the state’s Court of Appeals earlier this week.
A third-degree murder charge requires that ‘without intent to effect the death of any person, [the defendant] causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life’, and carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
When Cahill dismissed the charge in Chauvin’s case, he said, ‘A third-degree murder charge can be sustained only in situations in which the defendant’s actions… were not specifically directed at the particular person whose death occurred.’
Frank said, ‘Noor’s actions arguably put others at risk in addition to the victim, whereas Chauvin’s conduct only directly endangered Floyd. But this distinction made no difference to the Court of Appeals. That court has now clarified that it is immaterial whether the death-causing conduct in Noor may have been directed at, or may have endangered, others.’
Chauvin’s trial is set to begin on March 8, however Frank is lobbying for it to be postponed. The other three officers will go on trial together in August this year.
In his ruling regarding the separate trials, Cahill cited the ‘physical limitations of [the courtroom], the largest in the Hennepin County Government Center’ in making it ‘impossible’ to still comply with COVID-19 restrictions while conducting a joint trial of all four defendants, especially ‘given the number of lawyers and support personnel’ expected to attend.
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