MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota judge on Thursday dismissed a third-degree murder charge filed against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, though he continues to face other charges connected with the death of George Floyd, according to court records.
In an order issued Thursday, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill granted part of a motion filed by Chauvin’s attorneys seeking to dismiss charges against the 44-year-old. Chauvin’s attorneys argued in an August court filing that prosecutors lacked sufficient probable cause to pursue the case.
“Because a third-degree murder charge can be sustained only in situations in which the defendant’s actions were ‘eminently dangerous to other persons’ and were not specifically directed at the particular person whose death occurred, this is not an appropriate case for a third-degree murder charge,” Cahill wrote in his 107-page order and opinion.
“The evidence presented by the State does not indicate that Chauvin’s actions were eminently dangerous to anyone other than Floyd. More importantly, Chauvin’s actions were of course specifically directed at the particular person whose death occurred, George Floyd, upon whom Chauvin kneeled for more than nine minutes, pressing Floyd’s upper chest area, neck and throat, and face into the concrete of Chicago Avenue.”
Cahill rejected the arguments to dismiss two of Chauvin’s other charges, second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, writing that arguments made by attorneys were for a jury to decide. Prosecutors had argued that Chauvin intentionally assaulted Floyd, which is an element of the second-degree murder charge, and that officers assisted. Chauvin’s attorney said his client had no intent to assault or kill Floyd.
“In sum, Chauvin’s arguments misapprehend the law and are predicated on viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Chauvin, not to (prosecutors),” Cahill wrote. “At most, these arguments raise fact questions for the jury at trial.”
Cahill also declined to drop charges against three other former Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s May 25 death: Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. Their attorneys had argued that their clients did not intend or conspire to help Chauvin.
Lane, Thao and Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin, Lane, Thao and Kueng were working as Minneapolis police officers May 25 when they responded to a report of someone allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a local grocery store. Floyd, 46, was being detained for questioning when he was killed, according to investigators.
Video posted on social media showed Chauvin press his knee to Floyd’s neck for minutes as Floyd pleaded for air. In the video, Floyd can be seen going still as bystanders demand that Chauvin move.
The medical examiner for Hennepin County later said in an autopsy report that Floyd’s heart stopped as he was being restrained. 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 with racism and police brutality.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.