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3rd-degree murder charge reinstated in Derek Chauvin trial

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A woman walks near the makeshift memorial of George Floyd before the third day of jury selection begins in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin who is accused of killing Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 10, 2021.

A third-degree murder charge has been reinstated in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with killing George Floyd last May.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill tacked on the charge on Thursday morning, following the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to not take up an appeal from Chauvin against the charge.

Cahill granted the request from prosecutors to reinstate the charge after the former officer, Derek Chauvin, failed to get the state Supreme Court to block it.

Judge Cahill dismissed the charge last fall apparently because he believed that the circumstances of Chauvin's case did not fit, but an appellate ruling in an unrelated case provided new grounds for it days before the trial started. Cahill ruled at the time that a third-degree murder charge under Minnesota law requires proof that someone's conduct was "eminently dangerous to others," not just to Floyd.

An appeals court ruled Friday that Cahill erred when he rejected a prosecution motion to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin in October and ordered him to reconsider. "The district court therefore erred by concluding that it was not bound by the principles of law set forth in Noor and by denying the state's motion to reinstate the charge of third-degree murder on that basis."

The Friday's ruling said Cahill should have followed the precedent set by the appeals court last month when it affirmed the third-degree murder conviction of former officer Mohamed Noor in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault happening.

In a statement on Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting Chauvin, said, "We believe the charge of 3rd-degree murder is fair and appropriate. We look forward to putting it before the jury, along with charges of 2nd-degree unintentional murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter."

Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for about 10 minutes on May 25, is already charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. 

Forty-six-year-old Floyd died as he continually gasped, “please, I can’t breathe,” triggering massive rallies and clashes with police in many cities across the US.


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