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Third-degree murder charge reinstated in Derek Chauvin trial

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 Thursday morning, following the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to not take up an appeal from Chauvin against the charge.

Chauvin, in addition to the third-degree murder charge, also faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

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On Friday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Cahill should reconsider the third-degree murder charge, which was dismissed in October.

The question of whether the charge should be reinstated initially delayed the start of jury selection in the high-profile case from Monday to Tuesday.

Cahill sought guidance from the Court of Appeals on the matter. Minnesota Attorney General Keith EllisonKeith EllisonMinneosta AG's office to prosecute case against officer charged in killing of Daunte Wright State trial for former officers charged in George Floyd's death moved to next year Lawyer for former officer charged in George Floyd death alleges witness coercion MORE (D), the lead prosecutor, filed a motion with the appellate court seeking to pause all aspects of the trial, including jury selection, until the matter was settled.

The state appellate court recently affirmed a third-degree murder conviction in the case of Mohamed Noor, the only Minneapolis police officer to be convicted of murder. Ellison and his team argued that the new decision by the appeals court set precedent for the third-degree murder charged to be reinstated. Cahill on Thursday morning agreed.

"I feel bound by that and I feel it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion," the judge said.

Legal experts have said that the additional murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, increases the prosecution’s chances of getting a conviction.

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Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide movement calling for sweeping police reform and to root out systemic racism.

Graphic cellphone footage showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even after Floyd was unconscious. Floyd pleaded with Chauvin multiple times, saying that he couldn’t breathe before becoming unresponsive; he was later pronounced dead at an area hospital. 

Thursday marks the third full day of jury selection. So far, there have been five jurors selected — three white men, a woman of color and a Black man. Opening arguments in the case are slated to start March 29.

Updated at 10:22 a.m.