Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin was initially charged with manslaughter and third degree murder in the killing of black man George Floyd. But Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who took over the prosecution of the case, recently increased the murder charge to second degree murder. The lawyer for Floyd’s family is calling for charges of first degree murder. Is an increase in the charges really warranted?
Watching the video of Floyd’s killing, it’s clear that he was killed by the officers. The officers were warned by bystanders repeatedly that Floyd was bleeding from the nose. And Floyd himself told officers that he couldn’t breathe. Even after that, Chauvin maintained pressure on Floyd’s neck, while two other officers also held Floyd down. In fact, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly three minutes after Floyd passed out, something that is absolutely unconscionable. Derek Chauvin is responsible for Floyd’s death without question. The only question now is what crime he is guilty of.
Manslaughter is a slam dunk. Even third degree murder should be an easy conviction for any jury. But second degree murder requires proving an intent to kill, while first degree murder requires proving premeditated intent. So a first degree murder conviction would require Ellison to prove that Chauvin arrived at the scene with the intent to kill George Floyd. And a second degree murder conviction would require at least an intent to kill at some point. A mere disregard for Floyd’s life or a lack of concern for whether he lived or died wouldn’t be enough to convict Chauvin of second degree murder.
Given that extra hurdle, why is Ellison increasing the charges to second degree murder? Yes, he’s certainly facing pressure from Black Lives Matter activists and from Floyd’s family. But if a second degree murder conviction is difficult to achieve, then Chauvin risks being acquitted. Is that secretly Ellison’s goal?
Remember how bad the 1992 LA riots were in the aftermath of the acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King. An acquittal of Chauvin in Minneapolis could have a similar effect, particularly given how widespread the riots have been already. And given the timing of when the case will come to trial, such an acquittal could come in October or November, just in time for the Presidential election. An acquittal, and the police response to protests and riots, could just have an effect on who wins in November.
Ellison is a politician and never worked as a prosecutor. His decision to increase Chauvin’s charges could therefore have the effect of producing an acquittal, which may very well be what he wants. He appears to be, after all, at least an Antifa sympathizer. And he would love nothing more than to see President Trump voted out in November. Could his decision to charge Chauvin with second degree murder be part of a plan to foment riots that will affect the elections in November? Only time will tell, but the decision is certainly an awfully suspicious one.