Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen kneeling on the neck of George Floyd in a video that sparked nationwide protests and riots for months, is set to stand trial for the killing of Floyd at the end of March.
He will likely be facing a third-degree murder charge, in addition to other charges, when that trial begins after the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision to toss out that particular charge as inapplicable, the New York Post reported.
The appeals court ruled Friday that Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill had been incorrect to toss out the third-degree murder charge and sent the case back down to him with instructions to reconsider a request from prosecutors to reinstate the charge.
A question of precedence and applicability
Local NBC affiliate KARE reported that Judge Cahill had initially agreed with Chauvin’s defense attorneys that the third-degree murder charge was not applicable in this case as it typically was used in cases where a “death-causing act” had been applied broadly and was not directed at a single individual.
But prosecutors and the appeals court pointed to a recent case against another Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor, who was convicted on that same charge after he fatally shot an innocent civilian woman named Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a conviction that the appeals court had upheld.
The question now turns on whether the appeals court decision in the Noor case established a binding precedent on the use of the third-degree murder charge or if a final ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court will be necessary to fully establish the precedent.
The appeals court judges obviously believe that their ruling was sufficient to set the precedent, hence the decision to reverse Judge Cahill’s dismissal of the charge and the instructions for him to reconsider the issue and issue another ruling that “must be consistent with this opinion.”
If Chauvin’s attorneys decide to appeal the appeals court’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, the trial that is set to begin in a matter of weeks could be delayed for at least several more months.
Trial scheduled to begin within weeks
The Post reported that, in addition to the now-reinstated third-degree murder charge, Chauvin also faces a higher second-degree murder charge as well as a lesser manslaughter charge.
Jury selection was slated to take place starting on March 8 and the trial was set to begin at the end of the month, but all of that is up in the air now in light of the appeals court ruling.
Meanwhile, The Daily Wire reported that local authorities are increasing security measures ahead of the trial, likely fearing a repeat of the riots that erupted in Minneapolis following the death of Floyd last year.
That includes the use of concrete barriers, security fencing, and even barbed wire to protect the courthouse and police buildings, as well as an increased presence of law enforcement personnel from the Minneapolis Police Department, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota state troopers, and even Minnesota National Guard members.