In the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd last May, a third-degree murder charge has been reinstated.
Following the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday not to hear Chauvin’s appeal against the indictment, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill tacked on the charge Thursday morning.
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In addition to the third-degree murder charge, Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that Cahill’s third-degree murder charge, which was dismissed in October, should be reconsidered.
The decision on whether the charge should be restored initially caused the start of jury selection in the high-profile case to be pushed back from Monday to Tuesday.
Cahill went to the Court of Appeals for advice on the matter. The lead prosecutor, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D), filed a motion with the appellate court to halt all aspects of the proceedings, including jury selection until the case was resolved.
Mohamed Noor, the first Minneapolis police officer accused of murder, recently had his third-degree murder conviction upheld by the state appellate court.
The appeals court’s new ruling, Ellison and his team argued, established precedent for the third-degree murder charge to be restored. Cahill decided on Thursday morning.
The judge said, “I feel bound by that, and I believe it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion.”
According to legal experts, the addition of the murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, improves the prosecution’s chances of obtaining a conviction.
Floyd’s death prompted a national outcry calling for comprehensive police reform and the elimination of institutional racism.
Even after Floyd was knocked out, Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, according to cell phone video. Floyd pleaded with Chauvin several times, claiming he couldn’t breathe before passing out and being pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The third full day of jury selection will take place on Thursday. Five jurors have been chosen so far: three white men, a woman of color, and a Black man. The case is set to begin on March 29 with opening arguments.