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3rd-degree murder count could be reinstated in George Floyd’s death

A three-judge panel said Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill erred when he rejected a prosecution motion to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin.

In this file photo kids pose as their father takes a photo in front of a makeshift memorial to George Floyd near the site where he died in police custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 20, 2020.
In this file photo kids pose as their father takes a photo in front of a makeshift memorial to George Floyd near the site where he died in police custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 20, 2020.
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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday ordered a judge to reconsider adding a third-degree murder charge against a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, handing a potential victory to prosecutors.

A three-judge panel said Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill erred when he rejected a prosecution motion to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin. The panel said Cahill should have followed the precedent set by the appeals court last month when it affirmed the third-degree murder conviction of former officer Mohamed Noor in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. The unarmed Australian woman had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault.

The appeals court sent the case back to Cahill for a ruling consistent with its ruling in the Noor case.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of Chauvin, who is currently charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

It was not immediately clear if Friday’s ruling would force a delay in jury selection for Chauvin’s case, which is due to start Monday. Prosecutors did not immediately return a message seeking comment on whether they would seek a delay. Chauvin’s attorney had no comment.

A reinstated third-degree murder count could increase the prosecution’s odds of getting a murder conviction.

Floyd, who was Black, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. In the wake of his death, protests spread worldwide and forced a painful reckoning on racial justice.