George Floyd Case: Second-Degree Murder, Manslaughter Charges Upheld Against Derek Chauvin

(FOX NEWS) – A judge upheld the second-degree murder and manslaughter charges Thursday against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in connection to the death of George Floyd in May.

Hennepin County Judge Peter A. Cahill granted part of the defense’s motion and dropped the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin.

Cahill also denied motions to dismiss the charges against the other three officers present when Chauvin was captured on video pressing his knee onto a handcuffed Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before his death in custody.

Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane remain charged with aiding and abetting related to the incident that sparked a nationwide reckoning on racial injustice.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, reacted to the decision on Twitter, saying the judge’s move to uphold the remaining charges against Chauvin, as well as the charges against the other officers, was an “important step toward justice for George Floyd.”

Eric Nelson, the defense attorney representing Chauvin, declined to comment to Fox News.

Ben Crump, the attorney for the Floyd family, and his co-counsel praised the judge’s ruling to preserve the most serious charges against Chauvin.

“We are gratified that the court preserved eight of the nine charges against Derek Chauvin, including the more serious second-degree murder charge for which we expect a conviction, based on the clear and evident use of excessive force that we all saw on video,” Crump said in a statement. 

Prosecutors argued there was probable cause for the officers to go to trial on all of the charges, saying Chauvin intentionally assaulted Floyd, which is an element of the second-degree murder charge, and that the other officers assisted. Defense attorneys had argued that there was not enough probable cause to charge the former officers.

Chauvin’s attorney argued his client had no intent to assault or kill Floyd, while attorneys for the other officers argued that their clients did not intend or conspire to help Chauvin.

According to his memo, Cahill determined probable cause based on the factual background of the case. Evidence illustrated how the manager of Cup Foods in Minneapolis called police to report two men tried to use counterfeit $20 bills to purchase cigarettes on May 25.

Kueng and Lane responded to the supermarket around 8:08 p.m., and the manager said the men were across the street in a blue vehicle. Floyd was in the driver’s seat, and Lane pulled his gun, ordered Floyd out of the car, and handcuffed him. Both officers walked Floyd across the street but he refused to get into the patrol car and the officers called for backup. Chauvin and Thao arrived about 10 minutes later.

The officers struggled with Floyd to get him into the back of the squad car and Floyd fell to the ground.

Court documents illustrated a “critical nine-plus minutes” when Floyd was subdued and restrained on the street, with Chauvin kneeling on the back of his neck, pinning his face to the floor. Keung and Lane restrained and pinned Floyd’s back and legs to the street and Thao maintained bystander watch, the documents said.

Floyd continued to plead for his life, saying repeatedly that he could not breathe, to tell his kids he loves them, and that the officers were going to kill him. Chauvin dismissively said Floyd was doing a lot of talking and yelling, which takes oxygen. And, Thao told onlookers, “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.”

Bystanders increasingly shouted to the officers that Floyd was not resisting arrest and was no longer breathing. An out-of-uniform, off-duty Minneapolis firefighter at the scene demanded the officers take Floyd’s pulse, but Chauvin and Thao refused to allow her to attend to Floyd until an ambulance arrived.

All four officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department the next day. Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter four days after Floyd’s death on Memorial Day.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled Floyd’s death a homicide on June 6.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded the charges against Chauvin to include second-degree murder and filed charges against the three other officers present during the incident. Thao, Kueng and Lane are each charged with one count of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and one count of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin was released from jail on Oct. 7 on a $1 million bond. The other three had previously posted bail amounts of $750,000 and have been freed pending trial. Currently, all four men are scheduled to face trial together in March, but the judge is weighing a request to have them tried separately.