Minnesota appeals court clears way for third-degree murder charge against officers in George Floyd death

Minnesota appeals court clears way for third-degree murder charge against officers in George Floyd death
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The Minnesota Court of Appeals cleared the way for three former Minneapolis police officers to be charged with aiding and abetting third-degree murder in the death of George Floyd.

The court issued an order on Wednesday reversing an order from Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denying prosecutors’ motion to add the charge against J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Kiernan Lane and Tou Thao. The matter now goes back to Cahill.

Kueng, Lane and Thao had initially been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death, but were never charged with third-degree murder.

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The decision to charge them was part of a court battle over whether to charge former police officer Derek Chauvin — who has been sentenced to 22 1/2 years for Floyd's murder — with third-degree murder.

Cahill initially dismissed the third-degree murder charge in October. But the appellate court later upheld the charge in a different case against former officer Mohammed Noor, who is the only other Minneapolis police officer to be convicted of murder.

After the ruling in Noor’s case, prosecutors asked the district court to charge Chauvin with third-degree murder, and to add the third-degree murder charge to Kueng, Lane and Thao’s case. The court denied this motion in February because the judge felt the decision was not yet binding.

The appellate court ruled in March that Cahill erred when denying the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin because its decision in the Noor case was in fact binding. The charge against Chauvin was ultimately reinstated.

In its ruling, the appellate court said the decision to reverse Chauvin’s charge requires the reversal of the decision of the other officers.

Chauvin was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, resulting in his death. The former officer was sentenced Friday.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are expected to stand trial in Minneapolis in March 2022.

All four officers are also facing federal charges for Floyd’s murder.