A video captures a police officer kneeling on a man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The man dies. The officer involved, Derek Chauvin, is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges prompting outrage that led to civil unrest all across the country. The medical examiner releases a report saying that George Floyd died of a number of factors including Chauvin’s knee and poor overall health.
The question of whether or not Chauvin “intended” to kill Floyd is now at the heart of this case. In this article, we will take a look at the charges, and discuss why folks are so angry over the judicial process.
Third-Degree Murder and Second-Degree Manslaughter
Minnesota may be the only state with a third-degree murder statute. That is because murder generally requires mens rea or malice aforethought. Homicide, on the other hand, is a different legal concept. If you are responsible for the death of another person through negligence, you can be charged with third-degree murder in Minnesota.
There is considerable overlap between the third-degree murder statute and the second-degree manslaughter statute. Neither requires that you prove a malicious intent specifically to kill, but both provide for a careless indifference to the health or safety of others. An officer who faced similar charges in Minnesota was sentenced to 12 years.
The worry was that the medical examiner and the local authorities were setting up the means by which Chauvin would be charged with involuntary manslaughter (or second-degree manslaughter) which has a recommended sentence of four years. This would prove even more catastrophic for local authorities after the family released their own medical examiner’s report that called the death a homicide and said that the cause of death was strangulation.
In response, the medical examiner for the state issued a second updated report that did include the word “homicide” but also included evidence that George Floyd had drug metabolites in his system and other contributing factors. However, there do not appear to be a lot of people who could survive a man kneeling on their carotid artery for an extended period of time. In fact, brain damage would have been likely in about three minutes and death would have been likely in six. Six minutes is about the time when George Floyd went limp.
Under pressure from the state’s attorney general, the charges against Chauvin were upped to felony murder (second-degree murder in Minnesota) while the three men who did nothing are charged with aiding and abetting a murder.
“I Can’t Breathe”
Police are under the misguided impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. This is false. You may not be able to talk well, but air that is already in your lungs will allow you to speak. Nonetheless, police academies teach recruits that if someone can talk, that someone can also breathe.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, call David Freidberg, Attorney at Law today at (312) 560-7100 to learn more about how we can help.