MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Monday afternoon on whether or not to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd.
The hearing will come just a week before jury selection is set to begin for Chauvin’s trial. He currently faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The former Minneapolis police officer had previously been charged with third-degree murder, but that charge was dropped last fall by Judge Peter Cahill, who cited lack of probable cause.
Since then, the court of appeals ruled that third-degree murder was the proper charge in the case of Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted in the 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Following this decision, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison asked Cahill to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, but the judge refused. Prosecutors then appealed the judge’s decision, asking the appeals court to hear arguments quickly.
The appeals court agreed to expedite the process. Still, whichever side loses the case could appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which could lead to a delay in jury selection.
Defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who is not affiliated with the case, doesn’t expect the trial to be delayed. He says the court of appeals will likely have a decision by the end of the week.
“Right now, the attorney general’s office seems to desperately want this charge and they are pulling out all the stops,” Tamburino said.
There are several reasons for prosecutors to want the third-degree charge reinstated, Tamburino said. Firstly, it’s another means by which Chauvin could be convicted. Secondly, it may be easier to prove than second-degree murder.
While second-degree murder is technically considered more severe under Minnesota law, it’s punishment is similar to that of third-degree murder according to the state sentencing guidelines: about 150 months in prison.
“So whether you’re facing second-degree unintentional murder or third-degree murder, under Minnesota guidelines you get the same result,” Tamburino said.
Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after being arrested outside a south Minneapolis convenience store. Bystander video of the arrest showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he lay prone, handcuffed and repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe.
Three other former Minneapolis police officers are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. They’re slated to stand trial later in August.