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Prosecutors push to add third-degree murder charges against officers in George Floyd case

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Prosecutors in Minnesota filed a motion Thursday asking a district court judge to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin and add the same charge to the cases against three other former officers.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison claims a recent appellate decision in the sentencing of another former Minneapolis police officer “is precedential and now provides this Court with clear guidance regarding the elements of third-degree murder.”

Chauvin is accused of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in May.

In October, Judge Peter Cahill dropped a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin ruling the charge can “be sustained only in situations in which the defendant’s actions were ’eminently dangerous to other persons’ and were not specifically directed at the particular person whose death occurred.”

The evidence presented by the state did not show that Chauvin’s actions were “eminently dangerous” to anyone but Floyd, the ruling said.

Three other former officers involved in the incident — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Eric Nelson, the attorney for Chauvin, had no comment on the attempt to reinstate the third-degree murder charge. CNN tried to reach attorneys for the other former officers but has not received any responses.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Floyd’s final moments were captured on police and bystander video, and his death led to rioting and fires in the city as well as widespread protests against police brutality and racism. All four officers were fired.

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced in June 2019 by a Judge Kathryn Quaintance to 12½ years in prison for the fatal shooting of a woman while responding to her 911 call.

He was convicted on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk.

His attorneys appealed his sentence and earlier this week the state’s Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

Chauvin is set to go on trial March 8 while the trial for Thao, Lane, and Kueng is scheduled to begin August 23.

“The physical limitations of (the courtroom), the largest in the Hennepin County Government Center, make it impossible to comply with Covid-19 physical restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants beginning March 8, 2021 given the number of lawyers and support personnel the parties have now advised the Court are expected to be present during trial,” Cahill said in a ruling filed January to split into separate trials.

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