Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison held a press conference and announced new charges today against the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd.
Derek Chauvin had initially been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Video of Floyd’s death showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Ellison added a new count of second-degree murder, saying “I believe the evidence available to us now supports the stronger charge of second-degree murder.”
J.A. Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tao Thao are the three other former officers being charged in Floyd’s death, as Ellison announced that warrants had been issued for their arrests. The state attorney general said, “I filed a complaint that charges police officers King, Lane and Tau with aiding and abetting murder in the second degree, a felony offense.”
Ellison became lead prosecutor on the case two days ago and is working with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
Ellison opened the press conference by saying, “We’re here today because George Floyd is not here. About nine days ago, the world watched Floyd utter his very last words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ as he pled for his life.”
The attorney general explained that “the investigation is ongoing” and that his team was “investigating as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.” He said, “Every single link in the prosecutorial chain must be strong.”
“Trying this case will not be an easy thing,” Ellison continued. “Winning a conviction will be hard. In fact, County Attorney Freeman is the only prosecutor in the state of Minnesota who has successfully convicted a police officer for murder.” Ellison said he was confident of getting convictions, but that history “shows clear challenges.”
In Minnesota, second-degree murder includes “killing a human intentionally, but without premeditation (not thinking about or preparing for before).” The maximum penalty is not more than 40 years imprisonment.
Third-degree murder includes, “a depraved heart or mind murder, which places others in imminent danger of death and disregarding human life.” A “depraved heart murder” is one which is “the result of an act which is dangerous to others and shows that the perpetrator has a depraved mind and no regard for human life.” The maximum sentence is “imprisonment of not more than 25 years.”
Second-degree manslaughter includes “culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk” and has maximum penalties of “imprisonment of not more than 10 years, or payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.”
Ellison said the demonstrations and protests that followed Floyd’s death “are dramatic and necessary, but building just institutions is a more of a slow grind, but equally important. And we have to begin that work as well.”
Toward the end of the press event, Ellison addressed Floyd’s family: “To the Floyd family, to our beloved community and to everyone that is watching, I say, George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His family was important. His life had value. And we will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it.”
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