It was a travesty of justice, but maybe Derek Chauvin is on his way to getting some type of redemption. Apparently, one of the murder convictions against the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is going to be thrown out after a decision a few weeks ago by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
They found Chauvin guilty of killing alleged counterfeiter George Floyd in 2020, an incident that has spawned a multitude of violent protests both in Minneapolis and nationwide. Chauvin’s conviction came after a group of activists had said that they were going to riot if Chauvin were acquitted. This was the toddler holding his breath, except these were adults.
According to KMSP-TV, Minnesota defines third-degree murder as killing the victim without the intent while acting in a dangerous way to other people and showcasing “a depraved mind.”
This Minnesota high court’s ruling spelled out the element of a depraved mind, indicating that if the person being charged is only focused on one victim the conviction shall not stand.
This ruling came in the case of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who they convicted of second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder 4 years ago in the death of Justne Ruszczyk Damond.
Even though this ruling mostly benefits Noor, it could set a precedent that could very well be applied to Derek Chauvin and his case.
“It’s crystal clear now that Derek Chauvin cannot be convicted of murder three,” said Mitchell Hamline School of Law emeritus professor Joseph Daly, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Susan Gaertner is a former county attorney for Ramsey County in Minnesota and she told the Star Tribune that she is expecting Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, to try to use the argument that having this charge against him hurt Chauvin’s chances at a fair trial.
Gaertner also said that she didn’t think that it had a good chance of winning.
“Do I think that argument will be successful?” said Gaertner. “No.”
Daly also said that he doubts that arguing that this charge impacted the jury would make a difference, and downplayed its chances for success.
“By having that charge, it so confused the jurors it violated his due process rights,” Daly noted as one argument that Chauvin’s attorney could claim. “I think that’s a valid argument. Whether the court will buy it, I doubt it, because jurors did find him guilty of the higher crime.”
Rachel Moran is a University of St. Thomas law professor and she said she believes that the ruling clarifies state law, as noted by KARE-TV.
“The Supreme Court has to address legal issues that apply to a variety of cases, not just one, and sometimes, really their decision wasn’t so much about when should Mr. Noor get out of prison as it was, how should this third-degree murder statute be defined in anybody’s case?” Moran said.
Moran also described the law as being “murky” the way that it is written.
“It contains outdated language that frankly is not very well written, and the court actually said if you want to focus on rewriting the statute that’s a task for the legislature,” Moran said.
“It’s absolutely true none of these laws were written with police officers specifically in mind, so when the government does decide to prosecute a police officer, they’re trying to figure out which of these ordinarily applicable statutes fit with the officer’s conduct.”
“In a practical way, it does not affect Mr. Chauvin at all,” Moran said. “He will probably get his third-degree murder conviction vacated, just like Mr. Noor did, because his conduct was also recklessly indifferent as to one person: George Floyd.”
Chauvin was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison on that second-degree murder charge. However, that sentence was only based on the second-degree charge alone and had nothing to do with the third-degree charge. Unless Chauvin’s attorney can successfully argue that this third-degree charge impacted the jurors at his trial in some way, it isn’t likely that his sentence in the second-degree murder charge would be affected.
Caitlinrose Fisher has worked as one of Noor’s attorney’s and said the ruling was important for her client, according to NPR.
“Mohamed Noor did not act with a depraved mind. Mohamed Noor was not indifferent to human life,” Fisher said during oral arguments over the case earlier this year. “With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that Mr. Noor made a tragic split-second mistake. But if there is to be any meaningful difference between murder and manslaughter, that mistake is not sufficient to sustain Mr. Noor’s conviction for third-degree murder.”
She said Noor “really believed that he was saving his partner’s life that night, and instead he tragically caused the loss of an innocent life. Of course that is incredibly challenging, but I think just having reaffirmation that a mistake like that isn’t murder will mean more than words can say.”