ST. PAUL -- The prosecution in the George Floyd case filed a motion Thursday, Feb. 4, to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The motion asks Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin or to file an amended complaint that includes third-degree murder, citing new legal precedent set in former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor’s appeal in his own case.
The motion also asks to add a third-degree murder charge against the other former officers charged in Floyd’s death: Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao.
On June 3, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the May 25 arrest death of Floyd. Lane, Kueng and Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin’s third-degree murder charge was dismissed in October because Cahill determined that there was no evidence that Chauvin’s actions were “specifically directed at persons besides George Floyd,” according to Thursday’s motion written by prosecutor Matthew Frank.
However, this week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the third-degree murder conviction against Noor, who was charged with the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor is serving a 12-year prison sentence for shooting Damond, an unarmed Australian woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault.
The Court of Appeals said in its ruling that “a conviction for third-degree murder … may be sustained even if the death-causing act was directed at a single person,” Frank wrote.
Frank noted that there are differences between the Noor case and the case against the former officers.
“As this Court previously explained, Noor’s actions arguably put others at risk in addition to the victim, whereas Chauvin’s conduct only directly endangered Floyd,” Frank wrote. “But this distinction made no difference to the Court of Appeals.”
Calls made to Chauvin’s and Thao’s defense attorneys were not returned Thursday afternoon. Thomas Plunkett, defense attorney for Kueng, declined to comment on the motion. Earl Gray, defense attorney for Lane, said he agrees with Judge Matthew Johnson, who dissented in the Court of Appeals’ 2-1 ruling in Noor’s case. Gray added that he thinks it is too soon for the Noor case to be considered precedent.
And the appeals court decision may not be final — Noor’s attorney plans to ask the state Supreme Court to review it, but an appeal is not automatic and the Supreme Court could decline to consider it.
Chauvin’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 8 with jury selection, though the prosecution filed an appeal last week to postpone it to summertime due to COVID-19 concerns. The joint trial for Lane, Kueng and Thao is scheduled to start on Aug. 23.
Floyd’s death sparked widespread protests and unrest across the country over police brutality.