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Appeals court: Judge must reconsider reinstating third-degree murder charge against Chauvin

The appeals court's recent decision on a different officer-involved shooting case is precedent, it said.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals says the judge overseeing Derek Chauvin's trial erred in not reinstating the third-degree murder charge against him, and now the judge must reconsider it.

The ruling, issued Friday, comes days before Chauvin's trial is set to begin, with jury selection scheduled to start on Monday, March 8. 

With this ruling, though, it's unclear if the trial will actually begin on Monday.

Judge Cahill could immediately move to reinstate the third-degree murder charge or wait to hear additional arguments from Chauvin's team. Chauvin's attorney could also appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which could delay the trial.

Chauvin in June 2020 was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection to George Floyd's death. But in October, Cahill granted a motion from Chauvin's attorney to dismiss the third-degree murder charge against him, saying it didn't apply.

After the appeals court's recent decision to uphold Mohamed Noor's third-degree murder conviction in Justine Damond's death, prosecutors sought to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, but Judge Cahill denied the motion.

Prosecutors appealed Cahill's ruling, leading to the state Court of Appeal's decision that was released Friday. 

In Friday's ruling, the appeals court said its Noor decision is precedent and sent the District Court's decision to remove the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin back to Judge Peter Cahill to reconsider. 

“This court’s precedential opinion in Noor became binding authority on the date it was filed,” the ruling said. “The district court therefore erred by concluding that it was not bound by the principles of law set forth in Noor and by denying the state’s motion to reinstate the charge of third-degree murder on that basis.

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

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the case, said the state Court of Appeals "decided this matter correctly."

“We believe the charge of third-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 other three officers charged in Floyd's death are set to go to trial in August.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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