Prosecutors seek to charge all 4 officers with third-degree murder in Floyd's death

A recent appeals court ruling upheld the same charge against former MPD officer Noor, which the state says sets a precedent for the Floyd case.
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Prosecutors are seeking to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, as well as charge the other officers with the same crime.

The prosecution filed a motion Thursday asking Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin or to file an amended complaint that includes the charge, citing a new precedent set by the Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier in the week. 

The motion also seeks to add the third-degree murder charge against the other former officers – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – charged in Floyd's death. 

Chauvin in June 2020 was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection to Floyd's death, while the other officers were each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. 

However, in October, Cahill granted a motion from Chauvin's attorney to dismiss the third-degree murder charge against him, while denying motions to dismiss the other, more serious, charges.

In the order, Cahill said this case isn't appropriate for a third-degree murder charge because the state's evidence did not indicate Chauvin's actions were eminently dangerous to anyone other than Floyd and his actions were specifically directed at a particular person. 

Following Cahill's October decision, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the court's decision was "based on how appellate courts have interpreted the statute in question." 

On Monday, the appeals court upheld a third-degree murder conviction of former MPD officer Mohamed Noor in the July 2017 death of Justine Damond.

This sets a new precedent that provides the court "with clear guidance regarding the elements of third-degree murder," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank wrote in Thursday's motion.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in the Noor case ruled that a conviction of third-degree murder under state law "may be sustained even if the death-causing act was directed at a single person" and if the act "endangered only one person," the motion states.

Because of this, Frank argues that Chauvin's third-degree murder charge should be reinstated or the court should allow prosecutors to amend the complaint against him to include the charge. 

Frank also says the court should allow prosecutors to amend the charges against Kueng, Lane and Thao to include third-degree murder. 

In the motion, Frank also mentions that the state still believes Chauvin's trial, which is slated to begin March 8, should be delayed until summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial of the other three officers is scheduled to begin in August. 

The Pioneer Press spoke with Lane's attorney, who said it's too soon for the Noor case to be considered precedent. 

Meanwhile, the paper notes Noor's attorney plans to ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision, so that ruling may not be final. The state's highest court can decline to consider Noor's appeal, however. 

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