Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing trial in the death of George Floyd, could see a third-degree murder charge reinstated against him after a state appeals court ruling Friday.
A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill Friday that he broke precedent when he rejected prosecutors’ motion to reinstate the charge against Chauvin.
The same appeals court set that precedent last month in the case against Mohamed Noor, another former officer, convicted of fatally shooting an unarmed Australian woman in 2017.
Justine Ruszczyk Damond, 40, was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia and called 911 to report a possible rape near her home shortly before Noor mistakenly shot her in a nearby alley while responding to the call.
Chauvin, who is White, also faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with the May 25 incident.
He was recorded on video pressing his knee to the neck of Floyd, a Black man, for nearly nine minutes.
The appeals court ordered Cahill to reconsider the motion, and if he does reinstate the charge, the start of Chauvin’s trial could be delayed. Jury selection is supposed to begin Monday.
"We believe the Court of Appeals decided this matter correctly," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. "We believe the charge of 3rd-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin. Adding this charge is an important step forward in the path toward justice. We look forward to presenting all charges to the jury in Hennepin County."
Three other ex-officers involved in the Floyd incident are also awaiting trial -- separately from Chauvin after Cahill ruled in January that the courtroom would be too crowded amid the coronavirus pandemic. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao face charges of aiding and abetting and manslaughter.
All four were fired in the wake of Floyd’s death.
The incident sparked a summer of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Chauvin’s trial is expected to last between two and four weeks, and state and city leaders increased security measures ahead of its start.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.