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Judge rejects third-degree murder charge against ex-officers in George Floyd case

Attorney General Keith Ellison's office last week filed the count based on a Minnesota Court of Appeals split ruling earlier in the week that upheld a third-degree murder conviction against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

FILE PHOTO: Former Minneapolis police officers pose for booking photographs in Minneapolis
Former Minneapolis police officers (clockwise from top left) Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are seen in a combination of booking photographs from the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis. Minnesota Department of Corrections and Hennepin County Sheriff's Office / Handout via REUTERS / file photo

MINNEAPOLIS — A judge has rejected prosecutors' request to file a third-degree murder charge against four former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's death.

Attorney General Keith Ellison's office last week filed the count based on a Minnesota Court of Appeals split ruling earlier in the week that upheld a third-degree murder conviction against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

Prosecutors sought to reinstate it in the case against Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes, and for the first time add it to the cases against J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denied the requests Thursday, Feb. 11.

Chauvin is scheduled to stand trial March 8 on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death last May. A count of third-degree murder had been charged against Chauvin but was dismissed by Cahill in October.

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Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued in a filing Monday that the charge should not be reinstated because the Court of Appeals' ruling hadn't yet become legal precedent due to a window of time that allows Noor's attorneys to challenge the decision.

It would become precedent March 3 if attorneys in the case don't petition the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals ruling, Nelson wrote.

It would become precedent May 2 if the high court was petitioned.

Noor's attorney, Thomas Plunkett, has said he will petition the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals' decision. Plunkett also represents Kueng.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are scheduled to be tried together in one trial Aug. 23 on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Their attorneys did not respond to the prosecution's request.

Nelson also argued that the third-degree murder charge did not fit his client's case since Chauvin's actions were specifically directed at Floyd alone, while the charge criminalizes "reckless or wanton" behavior that endangers others. Noor fired his gun in a squad car across his partner's body at a dark silhouette outside the squad car and in the direction of residential homes, Nelson noted.

All four former officers, who were fired, are out on bond.

(c)2021 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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