The controversial third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been addressed following a directive by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, who ordered that Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill reinstate the third charge in the case.
Judge Cahill had previously dismissed the count in October, saying it did not apply in this case. However, an appeals court ruling in February against form Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor opened the door toward reinstating the charge against Chauvin. The state subsequently filed an appeal on Cahill’s ruling.
In Noor’s case, an appeals court ruled that third-degree murder can be applied to instances in which a person applies force to a single person. This ruling set a precedent that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison pursued.
Cahill said on March 5 that he would wait until the appeals court ruling was confirmed and would continue with the trial proceedings in the meantime, moving forward with jury selection and other pretrial matters.
Cahill resumed the hearing on pretrial motions and scheduled jury selection for March 9, saying “I’m going to keep going until I’m told to stop.”
During the March 11 session, in response to the Court of Appeals decision, Judge Cahill ruled that he accepted the ruling, adding that the third-degree murder charge only applied to Chauvin and that the potential to reinstate the charge against the other three officers will be addressed at a later date.
Chauvin now faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter, in addition to the reinstated third-degree murder. Ellison said in a statement that the third-degree murder charge “reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin. We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury.”
Jury selection is estimated to take three weeks, and will be followed by an in-person trial with COVID-19 precautions in place.
The Washington Post called this trial a “defining moment” for the nation, and a “moment of racial reckoning.” Local officials are spending $1 million dollars on security ahead of the trial and are bringing in the National Guard, as the city braces for further unrest.