Court Battles

Appeals court orders judge to reconsider third-degree murder charge in Floyd case

A Minnesota appeals court on Friday cleared the way for the state’s attorney general to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd last year, overturning an earlier lower court ruling that threw out the charge. 

Presiding Judge Michelle Larkin wrote in the ruling that the trial court judge Peter Cahill “erred” by “denying the state’s motion to reinstate the charge of third-degree murder” against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. 

Larkin sided with prosecutors’ arguments that the charge be reinstated based on the precedent set in Cahill’s separate ruling last month to uphold a third-degree murder conviction against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor for the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. 

“This court’s precedential opinion in Noor became binding authority on the date it was filed,” the court ruled Friday, adding that it was the lower court’s misjudgment when it decided “it was not bound by the principles set forth in Noor.” 

“We reverse the order of the district court and remand for reconsideration of the state’s motion,” the appeals court added. “On remand, the district court has discretion to consider any additional arguments Chauvin might raise in opposition to the state’s motion. But the district court’s decision must be consistent with this opinion.” 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) responded to the ruling in a press release Friday, writing, “We believe the Court of Appeals decided this matter correctly.” 

“We believe the charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin,” Ellison said. “Adding this charge is an important step forward in the path toward justice.”

“We look forward to presenting all charges to the jury in Hennepin County,” the attorney general added. 

Chauvin, who was seen in a video that quickly went viral in May pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes, currently faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. 

Floyd’s death prompted months of civil unrest across the country, with public officials, celebrities and activists calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. 

Chauvin’s trial is scheduled to begin Monday, though it was unclear if Friday’s ruling would push back this date. 

The three other officers involved in Floyd’s death — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting manslaughter and will be tried separately from Chauvin. Their trial is set to begin on Aug. 23.

Tags appeals court Derek Chauvin George Floyd George Floyd death J. Alexander Kueng Justine Ruszczyk Damond Keith Ellison Manslaughter Minneapolis Minnesota murder charge Thomas K. Lane Tou Thao
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