A judge on Thursday upheld the most serious murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the now-fired Minneapolis police officer who used his knee to apply deadly pressure to George Floyd‘s neck earlier this year.
However, the judge also dropped the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin on a legal technicality that local officials feared could result in further unrest over the egregious police killing on Memorial Day that also resulted in charges for three other officers who were on the scene that fateful day.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill “dismissed the third-degree murder charge because the law requires that someone cause the death of another person while committing an act inherently dangerous to others.” Citing state Supreme Court precedent, Cahill said he was left with no other choice but to dismiss the charge.
Chauvin is still facing one count of second-degree unintentional murder and one count of second-degree manslaughter in the police killing that captivated the world after video footage of the alleged murder went viral and prompted global protests against racism, police violence and what is many times the deadly combination of them both. If convinced, Chauvin could be sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Cahill also ruled Thursday that the other three former cops involved in Floyd’s killing — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng — each remain charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. It still needs to be sorted out whether they will stand trial together or separately.
Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing Floyd’s family, said he was “gratified” after Cahill’s ruling.
“We are gratified that the court preserved eight of the nine charges against Derek Chauvin, including the more serious second-degree murder charge for which we expect a conviction, based on the clear and evident use of excessive force that we all saw on video,” Crump said in a brief statement emailed to NewsOne. “We will continue to fight for justice in the civil courts and will advocate both for justice in the criminal system and for meaningful police reforms. The family of George Floyd has confidence that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will make sure that the officers are held accountable to the full extent of the law based on the evidence that we witnessed on that video tape.”
Many news outlets ran with a headline emphasizing the dropped third-degree murder charge instead of focusing on how Chauvin was still facing the most serious charges.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called the development an “Important step toward justice for George Floyd.”
However, Walz also said that “public safety services and security assistance” were on standby if needed, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey asked the Minnesota National Guard to be prepared.
The news about Chauvin’s charges came a little more than two weeks after he was bailed out of prison for $1 million. He was freed from the maximum-security Oak Park Heights prison Oct. 7 and will now have months to ponder his actions ahead of his March 8 trial next year. Since the end of May, Chauvin was housed in the Oak Park Heights prison after he was moved from the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul.
Chauvin’s release came amid reports that a mural erected in Floyd’s honor had been defaced a second time following an earlier defacing of the mural that occurred in August.
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