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Judge reinstates murder charge against officer in George Floyd death

By ArLuther Lee, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for City News And Talk #local-all #breaking-all

A judge has reinstated a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the May 2020 custody death of George Floyd.

The decision by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill was seen as a major victory for the prosecution after Chauvin’s lawyers failed to get an appellate court to block the grounds for it while ruling in a separate case.

On Wednesday, the state’s Supreme Court rejected Chauvin’s effort to block the charge.

Legal experts say the reinstatement of third-degree murder allows jurors one more option to convict the former officer.

Chauvin also faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the case where Floyd died May 25 after the officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The entire episode was captured on video shot by an eye-witness. Floyd, who was Black, pleaded with the white officer that he couldn’t breathe, but Chauvin kept his knee planted into the man’s neck even after he stopped moving and speaking.

The defense hasn’t said whether Chauvin will testify in his own defense.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired after Floyd’s death. The others face aiding and abetting charges and are set to go on trial in August.

Jury selection got underway this week in Chauvin’s trial, a process that resumes in court Thursday. Five jurors have already been seated after just two days of pre-trial screening.

Last October, Cahill threw out the third-degree murder charge, saying it was unwarranted given the circumstances of Floyd’s death, which sparked worldwide protests and a reckoning on systemic racism and police brutality in America.

The dispute over the third-degree murder charge in Chauvin’s case revolved around the conviction of another former Minneapolis police officer in the unrelated killing of an Australian woman. The appeals court affirmed Mohamed Noor’s third-degree murder conviction in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

The state argued that the Noor affirmation established precedent for the third-degree murder charge under the circumstances of Floyd’s death. If the Minnesota Supreme Court had taken up Chauvin’s appeal, it might have meant months of delay in his trial. After their ruling, the Court of Appeals rejected as moot the state’s request to pause the trial pending the appeal.