In Brief

George Floyd: the charges against Derek Chauvin explained

Family of unarmed victim demanding harsher charges against ex-police officer

The family of George Floyd are demanding that tougher charges be brought against the US police officer accused of killing the arrested man by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes. 

Derek Chauvin was charged on Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter - two felonies where intent is a key element - over the death of African-American Floyd, which has triggered protests across the US.

However, CNN says that Floyd’s family and their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, are upset that the fired Minneapolis Police Department officer “wasn’t charged with a more serious offence” and are demanding that the authorities change the charges.

Under Minnesota law, third-degree murder is defined as causing the death of a person “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind”. The offence carries a sentence of no more than 25 years or a fine of no more than $40,000 (£32,000), or both.

The news site says that the charges are not more serious because “prosecutors had to prove that [Chauvin] wanted to kill” when he forcibly restrained Floyd during an arrest over an alleged fake $20 bill. 

CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, a former assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia, said that the prosecutor will have looked at “what a reasonable police officer would have done”, as well as whether “this officer intended to get up this morning or have that interaction with Mr. George Floyd and cause his death”.

In other words, prosecutors “appear to believe Chauvin’s actions were unintentional but the law still recognises them as a crime”, Coates added. 

The New York Times reports that police department records show that Chauvin had previously faced 18 internal affairs complaints, “16 of which were closed without discipline”.

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In an interview with CBS News’s Face the Nation, the Floyd family’s lawyer said that the charges over the killing should be first-degree murder. Crump said: “We believe [Chauvin] knew who George Floyd was.” 

Crump claims the Floyd family was “notified by the owner of a club that Derek Chauvin was an off-duty police officer where George Floyd was a security guard, and so they had to overlap”.

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