Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will face an additional charge during his trial in the killing of George Floyd.
On Thursday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill—who is presiding over the trial—granted a request by prosecutors to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, according to NBC News. Chauvin was already facing charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of 46-year-old Floyd. The former cop was notoriously captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes in May of last year, causing the Black man to lose consciousness and then die shortly after.
As The Root previously reported, Cahill had dismissed the lesser charge of third-degree murder against Chauvin in October, saying it can only be sustained “in situations in which the defendant’s actions were eminently dangerous to other persons.”
But last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Cahill erred in making that ruling, citing precedent set by the conviction of former police officer Mohamed Noor for third-degree murder in the shooting death of a woman in Minneapolis. Chauvin’s defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, then moved to challenge the appeals court ruling at the state’s Supreme Court and the pending question of the third-degree charge briefly set back the start of jury selection in the trial on Monday.
But the Minneapolis Supreme Court rejected the request from Chauvin’s lawyer, and on Thursday, Cahill said he is bound by the appeals court ruling.
From NBC News:
“I am granting the motion because although these cases are factually different — that is Noor and the case before us — I don’t think it’s a factual difference that weighs in favor of denying the motion to reinstate,” Cahill said.
Cahill said a legal principal had been established as precedent: “When the intent is directed at a single person, then third-degree murder may apply. Single acts directed at a single person fall within the gambit of murder in the third degree.”
“We’re gratified that the judge cleared the way for the trial to proceed and for Chauvin to face this additional charge,” said Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Floyd family, about the development. “We’re pleased that all judicial avenues are being explored and that the trial will move forward.”
Third-degree murder charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 25 years in Minnesota, while second-degree murder is punishable by up to 40 years.
Five jurors have already been seated in the trial, and opening statements are scheduled to begin on March 29.