MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota judge has reinstated a third-degree murder charge filed against former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the May 2020 death of George Floyd.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill made the decision Thursday before jury selection was set to resume in the case.
“I have to follow the rule that the court of appeals has put in place, specifically that murder in the third-degree applies even if the person’s intent and acts are directed at a single person,” Cahill said.
In an opinion issued last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said Cahill erred by failing to follow the precedent set last month, when the appeals court upheld the third-degree murder conviction of Mohamed Noor. The former Minneapolis police officer shot and killed 40-year-old Justine Damond while responding to a 911 call in 2017.
“I feel bound by that and I feel it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion,” Cahill said Thursday.
Chauvin also faces second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in Floyd’s death.
Jury selection in the case began Tuesday after a delay to allow for more guidance from the court of appeals regarding the decision to dismiss Chauvin’s third-degree murder charge. Five jurors have been seated thus far after two days of screening by attorneys and the judge, who has set aside at least three weeks to fill the panel.
Attorneys have given considerable attention to the jury pool’s attitudes toward police in the first two days of questioning, trying to determine whether they’re more inclined to believe testimony from law enforcement over evidence from other witnesses to the fatal confrontation.
Floyd died May 25, 2020, while being detained for questioning in connection with a report of someone using a counterfeit $20 at a grocery store, according to police. Authorities arrested Chauvin after video surfaced on social media showing him pressing his knee to Floyd’s death for minutes as the 46-year-old Black man pleaded for air.
The Hennepin County medical examiner determined that Floyd’s heart stopped as he was being restrained and his death was ruled a homicide. A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family also called his death a homicide but concluded that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.
Floyd’s death prompted global outrage and sparked a national reckoning over racism and police brutality.
Three other officers also face charges in Floyd’s death. Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They are expected to face juries in August.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cox Media Group