Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill also allowed all other charges against Chauvin’s co-defendants.
Cahill decided that while the third-degree murder is applicable when a defendant’s actions could have harmed “others”, prosecutors are charging Chauvin in the death of just one victim, Floyd.
“The language of the third-degree homicide law explicitly requires that the act that causes’ the death of another person ‘must be eminently dangerous’ for others,” “Cahill wrote.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is handling the case, downplayed the dismissal.
“The court upheld eight of the nine charges against the defendants in the assassination of George Floyd, including the most serious charges against the four defendants,” said Ellison in a statement.
“This means that all four defendants will be tried for manslaughter and wrongful death, both in the second degree. This is an important and positive step on the path towards justice for George Floyd, his family, our community and Minnesota. We look forward to presenting the case of the prosecution to a jury in Hennepin County. “
Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor who is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, said that losing an included minor charge is at least a minor setback for the state. Any juror who might feel uncomfortable in convicting Chauvin for second-degree murder now has one less way to convict him for a serious crime.
“They wouldn’t have charged if they didn’t want it to go to a jury,” said Osler. “You always want to give options to a jury.”
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
The judge allowed all charges against three other former Minneapolis officers in the case, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, who are all accused of assisting and inciting second degree murder and assisting and inciting second manslaughter degree.
Floyd’s death sparked protests across the country and around the world against police brutality and systemic racism.