3rd-degree murder reinstated in Derek Chauvin trial

Following arguments Thursday morning, Judge Peter Cahill ruled the third-degree murder charge will be reinstated in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd.

The push to reinstate the charge came after the Court of Appeals ruled in February a third-degree murder charge was appropriate in the case of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was convicted in a deadly 2017 shooting. When Cahill denied the Chauvin prosecutors' attempt to reinstate the charge, they took the issue to the Court of Appeals, which stated Cahill made the mistake of not following the Noor ruling as precedence and ordered him to reconsider his decision.

In a ruling Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the petition filed by Chauvin’s defense team, meaning the decision to add the charge was to be determined by Judge Cahill.

During arguments Thursday morning, Neal Katyal, co-counsel for the state, said Cahill was duty bound to reinstate the charge due to precedence from the Noor case.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson, however, argued that Cahill was not duty bound by precedence if the cases are "factually distinguishable," pointing out that in Noor's case he put others in danger by firing a gun.

chauvin jury selection trial day 2

Defense attorney Eric Nelson (left) and defendant Derek Chauvin (right) listen to questions during jury selection for Chauvin's trial on March 9, 2021.

Cahill reiterated Noor and Chauvin are factually different cases, but the charge must be reinstated because the Court of Appeals has defined that third-degree murder can be targeted at a single person.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is leading the prosecution, supported the decision to reinstate the charge.

"The charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin," said Ellison in a statement. "We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury."

Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder, but Cahill dismissed the charge last October, saying it did not apply to this case. 

TIMELINE: George Floyd's death to Derek Chauvin's trial

Chauvin is now charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for his role in Floyd’s death last May.