What was going through Derek Chauvin’s mind when he kneeled on a handcuffed, prone George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May?
That key question is at the heart of the three charges against the former Minneapolis Police officer and will be top of mind for jurors when their deliberations begin. To render a verdict, they’ll also have to interpret Minneapolis Police policies, Floyd’s cause of death, and the specific language of the law.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
- The second-degree unintentional murder charge alleges Chauvin caused Floyd’s death “without intent” while committing or attempting to commit felony third-degree assault. In turn, third-degree assault is defined as the intentional infliction of substantial bodily harm.
- The third-degree murder charge alleges Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
- The second-degree manslaughter charge alleges Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm.”
Each of the three charges requires prosecutors to prove that Chauvin’s actions were not objectively reasonable and that they were a substantial cause of Floyd’s death. But the charges differ primarily in how they interpret his intent and mindset during his restraint of Floyd.
Some of the terms in these charges have specific definitions. Others will be left up to the jury to interpret.
As in any criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof and must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Any verdict the jury reaches must be unanimous.
Remember: The charges are to be considered separate, so he can be convicted of all, some or none of them. If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
The actual sentences would likely be much lower, though, because Chauvin has no prior convictions. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge. The judge would ultimately decide the exact length and whether those would be served at the same time or back-to-back.
Read more about the charges against Chauvin here.