Jury selection began on Tuesday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin had been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
On Thursday morning, however, a Hennepin County, Minnesota judge reinstated a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, according to a CNN report.
The report said that “Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the [third-degree murder] count in October, saying it did not apply to this case.” CNN explains how that charge came to be reinstated.
An appeals court ruling in February in the case against former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor opened the door to reinstating the charge against Chauvin, and the state subsequently filed an appeal of Cahill’s ruling.
In court on Thursday, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Noor’s case was factually and procedurally different than Chauvin’s interactions with Floyd, in which he knelt on Floyd’s head and neck area for an extended period. However, prosecutors argued that the judge was bound to follow the appeals court’s precedent in Noor.
Judge Cahill ruled Thursday morning that he accepted the appeals court’s ruling that the opinion in Noor’s case immediately set a precedent, and he ruled to reinstate the charge.
He added that the third-degree murder charge only applied to Chauvin and that the potential to reinstate the charge for the three other officers charged in Floyd’s death will be addressed at a later date.
“This charge has not come out of left field,” Cahill said Thursday. “It was originally charged. I think the defense has been aware that the state will take every opportunity to try and add it back.”
If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered Cahill to reconsider the motion to reinstate the charge last week. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court refused a request by Chauvin’s attorney to block the appellate court’s decision, clearing the way for Cahill to reinstate the charge.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a statement (on Thursday) which read: “The charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin. We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury.”
In light of the underreported developments that many of us just learned about this week, one has to wonder if the reason the third-degree murder charge has been reinstated is because prosecutors are worried that second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges might be too difficult to prove.
It’s clear that Ellison and many others desperately want to convict Chauvin for something in this case.
Days after the video of Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes went viral last May, Chauvin was charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. I posted about this here.
On Wednesday, I presented excerpts from an article written by The Spectator’s Roger Kimball. It turned out that at the time of Floyd’s death, he had a lethal dose of fentanyl in his system.
Kimball noted that rather than being St. George, Floyd was a “drug addict, a woman abuser and a career criminal.” He wrote:
First, the video clip that horrified the world was heavily edited. We see Floyd, pinned to the ground by Chauvin, piteously crying ‘I can’t breathe.’ Conclusion? That he can’t breathe because Chauvin is pressing on his windpipe. But a look at the police bodycam footage shows that Floyd was complaining that he couldn’t breathe before he was restrained by the police. Why? Because, as the FBI’s interview with the local medical examiner on July 8, 2020 revealed, Floyd was suffering from pulmonary edema, i.e., his lungs were full of fluid. And why was that? Partly because of an underlying heart condition, partly because Floyd was full to the gills with fentanyl, a drug known to affect respiration and cause pulmonary edema.
By the way, I say that FBI report ‘revealed’ this extenuating evidence, but it was evidence that the prosecution withheld from public scrutiny until the end of October 2020, by which time Minneapolis and many other cities across the country had been torched by Black Lives Matter rioters demanding ‘justice’ for George Floyd.
Here’s something else. Although Chauvin’s restraint looks brutal, it was actually part of the standard Minneapolis police protocol for dealing with persons exhibiting ‘excited delirium,’ a dangerous, often fatal, condition brought about by too much fentanyl with one’s afternoon tea. According to the medical examiner, Chauvin did not appear to have obstructed Floyd’s airway — Floyd would not have been able to speak if he had — and Floyd did not die from strangulation. Bottom line, George Floyd died from the effects of a self-administered drug overdose, effects that might have been exacerbated by his interactions with the police, i.e., his exertions in resisting arrest. For their part, the police were trying to help Floyd. It was they who called the ambulance because they recognized that Floyd was in extremis.
It just may be that Ellison and his colleagues, who are far more familiar with the details of this case than anyone else, are acutely aware of its vulnerabilities.
Although I am not a lawyer, CNN’s explanation for the reinstatement of the third-degree murder charge doesn’t make sense to me.
I recall vividly that many people were deeply disappointed by the third-degree charge and exerted tremendous pressure upon the powers that be to upgrade the charge to second-degree murder. And on June 3, prosecutors announced the elevated charge.
With the highly partisan Ellison in charge of the case, it remains to be seen if Chauvin will get a fair trial.