Manslaughter or murder in Minneapolis?

The George Floyd trial begins with a legal dilemma

Protesters.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for his part in the death of George Floyd last year began Tuesday. It will continue with jury selection this week — probably. Proceedings may be delayed in connection to a pending appeals court ruling about exactly how Chauvin will be charged: Will a previously removed third-degree murder charge be added, as prosecutors want, back to his current charges of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree murder?

Whatever the answer, this catchall approach to charging Chauvin strikes me as a strategic mistake. Giving the jury so many options can be a source of confusion, making unanimity on any one charge more difficult to achieve. More importantly, however, I've revisited Minnesota statutes for all three crimes, and I suspect that given these legal realities, at least the second-degree murder charge is a reach.

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