A judge on Thursday dropped charges of third-degree murder against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who used excessive force against George Floyd, a Black man, back in May. The other charges—second-degree murder and manslaughter—still remain.
Chauvin was videotaped on May 25 pushing his knee down on Floyd’s neck, who was on his stomach and handcuffed, for nine straight minutes until he died from the asphyxiation, despite repeatedly telling Chauvin that he could not breathe. Floyd’s death was categorized as a homicide on June 6 by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
Three other officers—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane—were at the scene throughout the incident and appear in the viral video. They were fired alongside Chauvin.
Additionally, Minneapolis Judge Peter A. Cahill declined to dismiss the charges against the other three officers. They face charges for aiding and abetting in the killing of Floyd.
The incident and the viral video that captured the scene sparked nationwide, as well as worldwide, protests against police brutality and systemic racism this past summer, bringing racial injustice back to the forefront of the national dialogue.
While defense attorneys had argued that there wasn’t enough probable cause to charge all the officers, the prosecutors claimed that there was enough to try them on every charge. The prosecutors argued that Chauvin purposely assaulted Floyd and would thus qualify for a second-degree murder charge and that the other officers assisted him.
Ultimately, Judge Cahill agreed with Chauvin’s legal team and decided to drop third-degree murder from the roster of charges against him, a less severe charge than murder in the second degree.
Citing Minnesota Supreme Court precedents, Cahill argued that the only person that Chauvin directly harmed was Floyd and could not have hurt anybody else, meaning a charge for third-degree murder was not applicable to this case because “probable cause does not exist for the third-degree murder charge.”
According to the Star Tribune: “Third-degree murder is an unusual, uncommon count that some defense attorneys have said didn’t suit the Floyd case. Some attorneys have said the charge best fits a situation such as a person randomly shooting into a moving train and killing someone.”
On October 7, Chauvin was released from jail on a bond of $1 million, while the others were released on $750,000 bond.
In the protests that erupted following Chauvin’s release, 51 individuals were arrested in Minneapolis on a variety of charges that were primarily misdemeanors.
All four officers are set to stand trial in March, however, the judge is still deciding on whether or not to try them all together or separately.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Rep. Patrick McHenry Announces Retirement, Adding to Congressional Exodus
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., has declared that he will not seek re-election, becoming the latest in a growing list of lawmakers departing from Congress. McHenry, a close ally of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, stated that he believes “there is a season for everything,” signaling the end of his tenure in the House. Having served since 2005, McHenry is the 37th member of Congress to announce they won’t seek re-election in 2024.
In a statement, McHenry reflected on the significance of the House of Representatives in the American political landscape, calling it the “center of our American republic.” He acknowledged the concerns about the future of the institution due to multiple departures but expressed confidence that new leaders would emerge and guide the House through its next phase.
The departure of McHenry and others comes against the backdrop of political shifts and challenges within the Republican Party. The GOP has faced setbacks in recent elections, including fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Internal strife and disagreements, exemplified by the rebellion against McCarthy, have characterized the party’s dynamics. The GOP’s approval rating stands at 30%, with a disapproval rating of 66%, reflecting the challenges and divisions within the party.
As McHenry steps aside, questions loom over the fate of open seats in the upcoming election. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report identifies five open House seats as potential Democrat pickup opportunities, while none are listed for the GOP. The departures raise concerns about the party’s unity and ability to navigate the evolving political landscape.
With a total of 20 departing Democratic legislators and 10 Republicans, the changing composition of Congress adds complexity to the political dynamics leading up to the 2024 elections. As McHenry emphasizes a hopeful view of the House’s future, the evolving political landscape will determine the impact of these departures on the balance of power in Congress.
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