Oral Argument To Add 3rd-Degree Murder To 3 Other Fmr. Officers Remains UnscheduledBy Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In an eleventh-hour development, the Minnesota Court of Appeals will be hearing arguments in early March about reinstating the third-degree murder charges for Derek Chauvin, who is accused in the death of George Floyd.

The hearing for Chauvin is set for March 1. Prosecutors want the third-degree murder charges back in, and argued that the appeal to reinstate the charges needed to expedited due to the upcoming trial for Chauvin on March 8. The appeals court agreed. That means the hearing will be happening just seven days before the scheduled start of the trial.

MORE: Read the appeals court order (.PDF)

Joe Tamburino, a criminal defense attorney not affiliated with the case, said this development is “unheard of.”

“I have never seen this before — the biggest case in Minnesota history, the first televised, the world is going to be watching and it starts on March 8. And a week before that, on March 1, they are going to be having oral arguments at the Court of Appeals,” Tamburino said.

Tamburino says the prosecution wants third-degree murder charges back in “because it’s easier to prove than second-degree unintentional murder.”

The last-minute hearing could lead to an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, from whichever side loses this round, and that could certainly delay the trial.

The prosecution, led by Attorney General Keith Ellison, said “I’m gratified the court will hear our appeal.” Chauvin’s attorney declined to comment.

An oral argument to amend complaints to add third-degree murder charges for J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao will not be scheduled until a briefing is held.

The scene of the trial in downtown Minneapolis is taking on the look of a fortress, with chainlink fences stretching around the Hennepin County Government Center. Starting Monday, there will be the first major street shutdown — 6th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues, which runs right under the trial building.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed face down on the street. Police were investigating whether Floyd used a counterfeit bill at a nearby store. In a video widely seen on social media, Floyd could be heard pleading with officers for air, saying he couldn’t breathe.

Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere and renewed calls for an end to police brutality and racial inequities.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Former officers Thao, Kueng and Lane are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

In another development, the New York Times reports that, under the Biden Administration, a new federal grand jury is looking into civil rights violations in the case. The potential penalties with these charges would be potentially more severe, up to and including life in prison.

Esme Murphy