All four officers involved in the arrest that ended in George Floyd’s death have now been charged and held on a $1 million bail each.
Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, had his charges expanded this week. His charges now include second-degree murder. This more serious charge was added to charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The three other officers — Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng, who helped to restrain Floyd and Tou Thao, who stood nearby — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
What do the charges mean?
Second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree murder carry a maximum sentence of 40 years. The maximum for a third-degree murder conviction is 25 years.
Manslaughter convictions carry a maximum of 10 years in prison, as does aiding and abetting manslaughter.
To get a third-degree murder conviction, prosecutors will have to prove Chauvin carried out “an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind,” without intent to kill, but without regard for life.
Second-degree murder would have to show the intention to kill or that the person caused a death while committing another felony.
What needs to be proved at trial
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig says the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison was smart in adding he intended to prove what is known as “felony murder.”
“That means the defendant intentionally committed some felony — here, assault — and that a death resulted,” Honig wrote for CNN. “Thus, prosecutors need to prove that Chauvvin intentionally assaulted Floyd, but not necessarily that Chauvin intended to kill him.”
Honig believes the video evidence is enough to sustain the second-degree charge. In the videos, George Floyd can be heard saying he can’t breathe and “They’re going to kill me, man” and “Don’t kill me.”
One of the videos Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for two minutes and 53 seconds after Floyd became unresponsive.
Leaving the third-degree murder charge is a fallback — if Chauvin isn’t convicted on second-degree he could still be convicted of the lesser charge.
To prove third-degree prosecutors will need to prove depraved indifference.
“That means you disregard the risk and did something that was so dangerous that you knew death could potentially occur,” said Joey Jackson, a CNN legal analyst and criminal defence attorney.
In Minnesota, the charges the three other former officers face of aiding and abetting are just as serious as committing the crime, Honig wrote, but harder to convict “because Chauvin’s conduct is more direct and will be more palpable to a jury.”
Prosecutors need to prove the three other officers “knowingly assisted Chauvin, even in some small way.”
Honig points out in one of the videos available online, it appears to show three officers kneeling on Floyd.
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