After a week and a half of protests around the nation, the four officers involved in the George Floyd case have all been arrested and charged
Minnesota officials charged three more former police officers on Wednesday with aiding in the death of George Floyd. The charge against Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground and pressed his knee into his neck for almost nine minutes, resulting in his loss of consciousness, has also been elevated to second degree murder, along with the previous second-degree manslaughter and third degree murder charges.
Floyd, a 46-year old black man, died on May 25 after Minnesota police officers detained him for the possible use of a counterfeit 20-dollar bill to purchase cigarettes. Mr. Chauvin held down a handcuffed Floyd and pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness. The other three police officers present at the scene failed to intervene while Floyd was pinned to the ground by Mr. Chauvin.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said of the officers that, “Silence is an action—you’re complicit. You’re complicit,” when asked whether or not he believed they would be arrested and charged.
Not long after these remarks were made, “the three former officers, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, were charged with aiding and abetting murder, according to criminal complaints filed by the state of Minnesota. The murder charge against the fourth, Derek Chauvin, was also elevated to second-degree, from third-degree,” according to NBC News.
The elevated charges came eight days after the video of the encounter surfaced. The case was also handed from the county attorney’s office to Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office, having a large impact on these charges.
All officers are now in police custody and Lan, Kueng and Thao have bail set at $1 million. If convicted, all officers face up to 40 years in prison.
Although public pressure has continued to mount as peaceful protests around the nation turned into violent outbreaks, Attorney General Keith Ellison said the public did not play a role in his decision to increase the charges.
“I feel a tremendous sense of weight, I feel that this is a very serious moment,” Ellison said. “I can tell you I feel no joy in this, but I do feel a tremendous sense of duty and responsibility.”
Furthermore, although the video footage shows that Mr. Floyd passed out after a knee was held on his neck for almost nine minutes, both the family and state autopsy reports found the causes of death to be different. While the independent autopsy found that Mr. Floyd died from “asphyxiation,” the medical examiner’s office found that he passed due to a previous heart condition. The examiner’s office also found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system.
Therefore, it seems as if it was the careful video examination that led to the elevated charges and not the autopsy disagreement.
Richard Frase, a criminal law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School explains these elevated charges further. Frase said second degree murder is easier to prove than even third because it does not require prosecutors to prove intent to kill but only intent to assault. If convicted, Chauvin will only face time for his top count of unintentional second degree murder, a 40-year sentence compared to a 25-year third degree conviction.
In Minnesota, to convict someone of second degree murder a prosecutor must show that Mr. Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, or that he killed him while committing another felony. The prosecutors have claimed to be taking the latter approach to the case.
Even if convicted, standard sentencing guidelines suggest that Chavin will be spending closer to 12 years behind bars.
As social media and the streets have been flooded with cries for justice, many are questioning why the charges were only raised one degree and not to first degree murder. Different outlets have explained that first degree murder would necessitate the prosecutor be able to prove both intent and some level of premeditation, which is a higher bar to reach.
Attorney General Ellison has stated, however, if evidence becomes available to suggest a first-degree murder charge, he will not hesistate to enforce that.
Though this is progress on the case, “trying this case will not be an easy thing,” Ellison said. “Winning a conviction will be hard.”
Story will be updated as more information is released.