Derek Chauvin Charges Elevated To Second-Degree Murder

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has raised the charges against Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, from third-degree murder to second-degree unintentional murder for the death of George Floyd, according to CBS Minnesota. He will still face charges for second-degree manslaughter.

Prior to the official announcement Wednesday afternoon, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted that the charges against Chauvin would be increased and that the three other officers involved in the incident would be charged as well.

Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, was seen in several videos kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, during which time Floyd begged for his life. Floyd died during this incident. According to TMZ, an independent autopsy commissioned by Floyd's family concluded that Floyd died from suffocation as a result of direct pressure being applied to the back of his neck.

Chauvin's Arrest And Original Charges

Chavin and the other officers involved in the incident were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department on Tuesday of last week, CBS News reported. However, Floyd's family said that firing the officers was not enough. They called for the officers to be charged with murder. Minnesota's Mayor, Jacob Frey, agreed, asking the County Attorney to charge the officers. Thousands of people around the country organized protests to demand that the officers be charged with murder.

A protester holds a sign with an image of George Floyd during a peaceful demonstration over George Floyd's death outside LAPD headquarters
Getty Images | Mario Tama

Early last week, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that he was investigating the case and wanted to make sure he got all the evidence he needed before pressing charges, according to CBS News. Chauvin was eventually arrested on Friday, May 29 — four days after the alleged murder occurred. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension took Chauvin into custody Friday morning and he was charged with third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter.

The Difference Between Second-Degree And Third-Degree Murder Charges

According to Minnesota's Office of the Revisor of Statutes third-degree murder is when a person kills someone without meaning to kill them but by committing a dangerous act with malice. The definition of third-degree murder implies that the perpetrator did not set out to kill someone but that their intentionally harmful actions resulted in death. The maximum sentence for third-degree murder is "not more than 25 years."

Second-degree manslaughter — the second crime Chauvin was charged with at the time of his arrest — is when a person's dangerous and negligent actions result in someone's death, according to CBS News. The definition of second-degree manslaughter implies that the perpetrator's dangerous actions knowingly put another person at risk for death or severe harm.

In Chauvin's case, the third-degree murder charge implies that Chauvin directly caused Floyd's death but that Chauvin did not intend to kill him. The second-degree manslaughter charge implies that Chauvin did know that his actions put Floyd at risk for death or severe harm but that he took those actions anyway.

Second-degree murder is a more serious charge that requires proof that the perpetrator of the crime intended to kill their victim, according to TMZ. The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 40 years. TMZ posited that the justification for charging Chauvin with second-degree murder might be that Chauvin knew at some point during the time that he was kneeling on Floyd's neck that Floyd might die and that he intended to kill him by choosing to continue kneeling on his neck.

Charges For The Other Officers

Attorney General Keith Ellison is also expected to announce that the three other officers involved in the incident — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All three officers were seen on multiple videos watching Chauvin kneel on Floyd's neck until he died. None of them stopped Chauvin.

According to The Star Tribune, Kueng was one of the first police officers to arrive at the scene and was seen on video helping Chauvin restrain Floyd. Lane was reported to have pointed a gun at Floyd while he was handcuffed and before he was restrained. Thao was seen on video standing over Floyd and Chauvin and watching while Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck.