NewsLocal NewsMichigan

Actions

Law expert breaks down the charges officers face in George Floyd case

4 officers have been charged after Floyd's death
Former federal prosecutors discuss next steps in George Floyd case
Posted at 11:33 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 05:53:20-04

All four police officers involved in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis are now facing charges.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday afternoon that former officer Derek Chauvin’s murder charge has been upgraded from 3rd degree to 2nd degree. He’s also being charged with manslaughter.

Chauvin is the officer seen on video with his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck.

Ellison also announced that former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are being charged with aiding and abetting 2nd degree murder for their role in Floyd's death.

“Winning this conviction will be hard, in fact we’re confident in what we are doing, but history does show there are clear challenges here, and we will be working very hard,” Ellison said.

“Historically when it comes to charging police officers with a crime, we have seen the system, be very methodical, if not slow in bringing those charges against officers,” said Tonya Krause-Phelan, a criminal law expert and professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

“I know many people right now think that the week it has taken was too long, but in the context of history, this was relatively swift in making those determination to charge the officers,” she added.

Krause-Phelan says the gathering and reviewing of additional evidence is likely why there’s been an upgraded charge for Derek Chauvin.

Second degree murder implies Chauvin had the intent to kill George Floyd.

They did make an arrest quickly on what they thought they could prove with the limited information they had at the time of the charge. But after reviewing further evidence, it was clear to the prosecution at least if the new, more serious charges or any, any indication, they think they can prove that intent to kill,” Krause-Phelan explained.

If convicted, Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison and under the aiding and abetting charges, the other three officers would face the same penalty.

“When we review the evidence relating to George Floyd’s death, we know that there were three other officers on the scene, two of whom we have seen actually assisting and holding Mr. Floyd down. And that behavior is being viewed as helping Officer Chauvin kill George Floyd under the eyes of the law,” she said.

“They'll be charged, just as if they had committed the crime, that's what aiding and abetting theory does. And it subjects those officers to the same possible maximum penalty,” she added.