The judge overseeing the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has paused the jury selection process to allow prosecutors to pursue the reinstatement of third-degree murder charges in an appeals court, the Associated Press reports.
Chauvin is currently charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis Black man whom Chauvin kneeled on for nearly nine minutes, causing Floyd to suffocate even though Floyd repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breath.
Prosecutors sought the third-degree murder charge to provide a jury with a full range of options to convict Chauvin. An unusual charge–only three states have it on the books–third degree murder allows prosecutors to argue Chauvin did not have premeditated intent to cause the death of Floyd, but that he acted with a “depraved heart” regarding taking Floyd’s life. It’s an intermediate charge between second-degree murder and manslaughter, providing a sentence of up to 25 years in jail.
The third-degree murder charge was erroneously dismissed by a county district court judge last year, but a three-judge panel ruled Friday that the judge, Peter Cahill, erred in his ruling, ignoring precedent. The defense now must make other arguments to support their request to dismiss the charge.
While potential jurors were sent home Monday, Cahill ruled that the case will carry on as the new motion to dismiss the third-degree murder charge is heard, and he expected to hear unrelated motions as early as Monday afternoon.