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Derek Chauvin, Charged With George Floyd's Death, May Face Additional Murder Charge

An appeals court has ordered a Minnesota judge to consider charging former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder in the death of George Floyd last May.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill had dismissed that charge in October, siding with Chauvin's defense team who argued the officer didn't put anyone other than the victim at risk. But a three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals said Cahill failed to follow precedent.

Last month, the court of appeals, by a vote of 2-1, upheld third-degree murder charges against former officer Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed a woman while on duty in 2017. Noor also had argued his actions were directed at the victim alone.

"We reverse the order of the district court and remand for reconsideration of the state's motion," the appeals court ruled. "On remand, the district court has discretion to consider any additional arguments Chauvin might raise in opposition to the state's motion. But the district court's decision must be consistent with this opinion."

Chauvin is one of four officers facing charges following the death of Floyd, which gained national attention last spring when cellphone footage showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for just shy of 9 minutes.

Chauvin currently faces second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges, but Cahill will have to consider reinstating the additional murder charge. Chauvin 's trial is scheduled to start next week and it is unclear whether this could delay it.

Chauvin was first charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on May 29, 2020, but Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed an additional higher charge of second-degree murder the following week. Ellison alleged Chauvin used an "unauthorized restraint technique" and intentionally inflicted bodily harm on Floyd, who was handcuffed and laid face down on the pavement.

According to Minnesota law, second-degree murder carries a prison sentence of no more than 40 years and third-degree murder, 25 years.

"We believe the Court of Appeals decided this matter correctly. We believe the charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin," Ellison said in a statement Friday. "Adding this charge is an important step forward in the path toward justice. We look forward to presenting all charges to the jury in Hennepin County."

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Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.