The jury in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, which has recently reached a verdict, is weighing three charges against the former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin could be convicted on all three of the charges, some of the charges, or none of the charges. They each relate to a different sense of Chauvin’s mindset at the time of his encounter with Floyd during a 25 May 2020 arrest.
“The state does not need to prove that he intended to kill George Floyd,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said during his closing on Monday in explaining to jurors how they must consider the charges.
So what do these charges mean, and how do they relate to Chauvin’s case?
Minnesota state law states that second-degree unintentional murder includes incidents when a person “causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense…” and “causes the death of a human being without intent to effect the death of any person, while intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the victim…”
“If you’re doing something that hurts somebody, and you know it,” Schleicher said yesterday in explaining how Chauvin’s actions relate to this statute, “you’re doing it on purpose.”
“He knew better. He just didn’t do better.”
Schleicher also argued that Chauvin’s restraint equated to an “assault,” which is a crime, and as such, governed by the first part of this law.
Under Minnesota law, third-degree murder includes: “Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life…”
Schleicher said in closings that Chauvin’s actions demonstrated “conscious indifference” to Floyd’s life.
Second-degree manslaughter, according to Minnesota law, includes: “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another…”
Schleicher argued that Chauvin’s actions constituted a “strong probability of injury to others” culminating in Floyd’s death.
“You can look for yourself and see exactly what was happening,” he told jurors.