Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill Thursday overturned his own decision to drop third-degree murder charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after an appeal from state prosecutors.
“The dispute over the third-degree murder charge revolved around wording in the law that references an act ’eminently dangerous to others,'” Spectrum News reported. “Cahill’s initial decision to dismiss the charge had noted that Chauvin’s conduct might be construed as not dangerous to anyone but Floyd.”
Prosecutors argued that the state’s Court of Appeals upheld the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was charged in the killing of an Australian woman in 2017. That ruling, prosecutors said, established a precedent to charge Chauvin, and Cahill agreed.
“I feel bound by that and I feel it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion,” he said from the bench Thursday.
Re-instating the charge was one of multiple motions heard from state prosecutors and the defense this week. Wednesday, Cahill agreed to hear limited “spark of life” evidence on behalf of George Floyd, whom Chauvin is accused of killing.
Chauvin is also charged with second-degree murder and lesser offenses.
Jury selection has also commenced in the trial this week, and opening arguments are slated for March 29.
But the jury selection process has been unduly challenging.
Floyd’s arrest was caught on camera in now-infamous video showing Chauvin kneeling on his back. He later died in police custody, sparking a summer of riots across the country. An autopsy showed potentially-lethal levels of illicit narcotics in Floyd’s system, which figures to be a key part of Chauvin’s defense.
With the national media attention the case has received, finding impartial jurors has been a difficult process.
“I definitely have strong opinions about the case,” one woman, who was dismissed, reportedly said. “I think I can try to be impartial — I don’t know that I can promise impartiality.”
Another woman said she had seen the video of the arrest, and did not understand why Chauvin did not stop kneeling on Floyd’s back. She too, was dismissed.
Attitudes toward police have been a centerpiece of the jury selection, according to Spectrum.
“The first juror picked Wednesday, a man who works in sales management and who grew up in a mostly white part of central Minnesota, acknowledged writing on his questionnaire that he had a ‘very favorable’ opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement and a ‘somewhat unfavorable’ impression of the Blue Lives Matter countermovement, yet ‘somewhat agreed’ that police don’t get the respect they deserve,” the report said. “He said he agrees that there are bad police officers.”
Six jurors have been selected as of Thursday morning.
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