Washington, Mar 11 (efe-epa) .- The white former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing an African-American man, George Floyd, after kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes in May 2020, an incident that triggered violent racial protests throughout the United States last summer, now faces a third-degree murder charge in addition to two other counts.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill added the new charge after the Minnesota state Supreme Court declined to heed the request of defendant Derek Chauvin’s attorneys to decide the matter.
Last Friday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Cahill should reconsider the third-degree murder charge, which the judge had rejected in October, saying he had not correctly applied precedent from an earlier police-involved death.
With this new charge, the 44-year-old Chauvin – a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department before he was fired over the Floyd incident – now stands accused of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Footage from security cameras and bystanders’ cellphones showed Chauvin kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on the 46-year-old Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020, on a Minneapolis street while the suspect was handcuffed on the ground and repeatedly said he was unable to breathe.
Floyd, who had been arrested after being accused by a store clerk of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, was pronounced dead that day after being transferred to the Hennepin County Medical Center in that midwestern city.
The addition of the third charge could make it easier for the prosecution to secure a conviction.
According to the 2020 Minnesota Statutes, an unintentional second-degree murder conviction is appropriate if jurors decide that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death, without intending to do so, “while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense.”
A third-degree murder conviction, by contrast, would be applicable if Chauvin is found to have “proximately,” or primarily, caused Floyd’s death by “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind.”
If convicted of second-degree murder, the former police officer could face a sentence of up to 40 years, while a conviction on the charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter would carry a maximum sentence of 25 years and 10 years, respectively.
Thursday marked the third day of jury selection in Chauvin’s trial, which is being held at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis; opening arguments are scheduled to begin on March 29.
Five members of the 12-person jury have been chosen thus far. There will also be four alternate jurors.
Four men – three of them white and one of them African-American – and a woman of color have been selected to date, the media reported without specifying the latter’s race.
Three other former Minneapolis police officers – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, all fired over the incident – face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and are expected to go on trial this summer. All four are out on bail. EFE-EPA