Minnesota judge reinstates third-degree murder charge in trial of George Floyd’s killer

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill announced on Thursday that former police officer Derek Chauvin will face an additional charge of third-degree murder.

The decision came on the third day of the much-anticipated trial for the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chauvin already faces second-degree manslaughter and unintentional murder charges. The original complaint in the case was filed on May 29.

Following a hearing in September, the four former police officers charged with Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and Alexander Kueng—all filed motions to dismiss charges for lack of probable cause. In a 107-page order, the court denied all the motions except Chauvin’s charge of third-degree murder and subsequently dismissed the additional murder charge in October. The court also denied the state’s motion to reinstate the charge.

Last Friday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the District Court must reconsider the additional third-degree murder charge. The Court of Appeals concluded that the court erred by “refusing to apply” binding authority found in State v. Noor (a recent case also involving an ex-Minneapolis police officer) that supported the state’s motion for reinstatement. The District Court “nonetheless denied the motion, reasoning that Noor was not yet a binding precedent because further appellate review was possible in that case.” The Court of Appeals rejected this reasoning, finding that “a precedential opinion of this court is binding authority upon its filing.”

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a request for review from Chauvin’s lawyers who sought to block the additional murder charge.

Moving forward, Cahill is bound by the Court of Appeals’ ruling. “I am granting [the state’s] motion because although these cases are factually different—that is, Noor and the case before us—I don’t think there is a factual difference that denies the motion to reinstate,” he said.

Jury selection is underway and a sixth member was selected on Thursday. Ultimately, the court will select 12 jurors and two alternates who will report back to the courthouse on March 29, when opening arguments are scheduled to begin.