Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

George Floyd Case: Judge Drops 3rd-Degree Murder Charge Against Derek Chauvin

Updated at 11:40 a.m. ET

A Minneapolis judge has dismissed the third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, one of the four former police officers facing criminal charges in the May killing of George Floyd.

Chauvin, who was captured on cellphone video kneeling on Floyd's neck for several minutes, still faces a higher charge of second-degree murder. Chauvin's legal team filed a motion to have both charges dropped, but the latter was denied.

The dismissal will be stayed for five days to allow state prosecutors to consider a pretrial appeal, according to court documents.

Three other former Minneapolis officers — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and Alexander Kueng — face charges of aiding and abetting murder in the killing of Floyd. They also sought to have their complaints dismissed for lack of probable cause.

However, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill denied each of their motions.

The judge agreed with Chauvin's defense team that third-degree murder did not apply in this case. Cahill said prosecutors were only able to prove two of the three elements required for the charge: that Floyd died and that Chauvin caused Floyd's death.

But the final element of probable cause for third-degree murder involves proving that the defendant was putting people other than the victim at risk, Cahill said.

Because Chauvin's actions were directed only at Floyd and could not have resulted in harm of anyone else, the judge said, "probable cause does not exist for the third-degree murder charge."

"Third-degree murder is an unusual, uncommon count that some defense attorneys have said didn't suit the Floyd case," the Star Tribute reported. "Some attorneys have said the charge best fits a situation such as a person randomly shooting into a moving train and killing someone."

Cahill is still considering whether to try all four former officers together, which was not included in the most recent court filings, according to the Star Tribune. The newspaper also noted that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office has signaled it does not want to try the officers separately.

Earlier this month, Cahill issued an order changing the terms of Chauvin's bond, allowing him to leave the state because of "safety concerns."

Chauvin was released from jail after posting a $1 million bond. Law enforcement officials said 51 people were arrested at demonstrations following his release.

Floyd's death sparked protests worldwide calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. It also triggered days of protests in Minneapolis.

Like Chauvin, the three other former officers involved in the Floyd killing have been released from jail on bond.

Their trial is expected to start in March.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.