St. Paul, MN – A Hennepin County judge dismissed the third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin on Thursday morning.
Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in the wake of the May 25 death of 46-year-old George Floyd, still faces charges of second-degree manslaughter and unintentional second-degree murder, WLS reported.
Prosecutors have a five-day window to appeal the dismissal.
Although Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the charge against Chauvin, he denied the motion to dismiss the aiding and abetting manslaughter and second-degree murder charges filed against the other three former MPD officers involved in Floyd’s death.
All four former officers are scheduled to go to trial in March of 2021, WLS reported.
If convicted on the unintentional second-degree murder charge, Chauvin faces a presumptive sentence of 12.5 years in prison under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, although the judge has the authority to impose a sentence of up to 15 years, according to WLS.
If convicted of second-degree manslaughter, he could face up to 4.75 years.
Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death during his arrest. His charges have since been upgraded to second-degree murder.
On June 3, former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder for their role in Floyd’s arrest.
The officers had responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that Floyd had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli.
Store employees pointed out the suspect to police and they arrested him.
The complaint used to charge Chauvin said Floyd actively resisted arrest and then fought being put in the back of a police car once he had been handcuffed.
Viral cell phone video showed then-Officer Chauvin and three other officers holding Floyd on the ground.
The video showed Officer Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time the suspect lost consciousness.
Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he was unresponsive.
The judge has not yet decided whether he will allow the former Minneapolis police officers’ cases to be separated for trial.
Attorneys for the other three former officers charged in connection with Floyd’s death want Chauvin to go to trial first and have argued that if he is not convicted, the charges against all three other officers should not stand.
Earl Gray, who is representing Lane, said in a motion that Floyd swallowed fentanyl tablets while the officers were trying to take him into custody, KMSP reported.
Gray said that the bodycam video of Floyd’s arrest showed a white spot on his tongue that disappeared a moment later.
Former Officer Lane’s attorney argued it looked like Floyd was swallowing “2 milligrams of fentanyl, a lethal dose” in order to avoid being caught holding the drugs, KMSP reported.
“All he had to do is sit in the police car, like every other defendant who is initially arrested. While attempting to avoid his arrest, all by himself, Mr. Floyd overdosed on Fentanyl,” Gray wrote in the court filing. “Given his intoxication level, breathing would have been difficult at best. Mr. Floyd’s intentional failure to obey commands, coupled with his overdosing, contributed to his own death.”
He submitted former Officer Lane’s bodycam video of the arrest as well as the footage of Floyd’s May 6, 2019 arrest, where he seemed to have done largely the same thing.
However, in that case, the officers called 911 after Floyd admitted after he was handcuffed that he had swallowed about eight Percocet pills and told officers he was addicted painkillers, The Washington Post reported.