Derek Chauvin update: Last minute maneuvering in case against former Minneapolis cop accused of George Floyd killing

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Last-minute maneuvering in case against former cop accused of killing George Floyd
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was expecting to see jury selection start Monday, but it has been pushed to at least Tuesday and possibly beyond.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In the 11th hour of a legal case that has a nation's attention, Minnesota prosecutors are trying to revive an additional charge against Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of the murder of George Floyd.

Prosecutors want a third degree murder option for the jury there to consider and that move has stalled the proceedings even before they could start.

Former officer Chauvin was expecting to see jury selection start Monday, but now it has been pushed to at least Tuesday and possibly beyond. This motion by the Minnesota attorney general asks that proceedings be halted until the state Court of Appeals rules on a prosecution request to reinstate the Third Degree murder count against Chauvin.

"It's always in the interest of the state to give as many options to the jury as they can to convict the defendant so here is yet another charge it requires a different showing until a lesser standard that has to be satisfied, you don't have to show intent, the way you do with a secondary murder charge for example. And so, the state just wants to maximize its odds of getting a conviction of this defendant by putting as much as they can in front of the jury," said ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer.

The I-Team asked Soffer what the government would have to show in order to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt of third degree murder.

"Well, it would have to show that the defendant acted with what's called a depraved mind and indifference to human life, those terms are not self-evident. It's a little bit murky and so it's, it can be satisfied in a number of ways but that's the language of the statute that the government would have to show a depraved mind," said Soffer. "It just doesn't require intent or certainly not the same level of intent, as a higher murder degree charge which is what's currently in the indictment."

Chauvin already faces a second degree murder charge, accused of putting his knee to the neck of George Floyd for almost 9 minutes, killing him. Floyd was being taken into custody last May for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill. It is a case that sparked protests, some turning violent in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities.

Protesters already gathered Monday outside court for the Chauvin trial.

The third degree murder controversy wouldn't even be an issue in Illinois because this state doesn't have such a charge on the law books. Only Minnesota, Florida and Pennsylvania do offer prosecutors a third degree choice.

Illinois has reckless homicide and manslaughter options, but they carry much shorter prison sentences. In Minnesota, third degree murder could put Chauvin behind bars for up to 25 years.