The Minnesota Attorney General said on Thursday he has not ruled out bringing first degree murder charges against Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, and that he would prosecute ‘anything the facts allow’.
Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and third degree manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25 while arresting for him for allegedly using a fake $20 bill.
Three other officers who helped Chauvin subdue Floyd – Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao, were charged with aiding and abetting murder on Wednesday afternoon after a groundswell of outrage around the world, demanding that they be brought to justice.
All four now face 40 years prison terms if convicted. Floyd’s family want to see Chauvin’s charge increased to first degree murder that could put him away for life.
To prosecute second degree unintentional homicide, which is what Chauvin is currently charged with, the prosecutors must convince a jury he intended to harm Floyd, but not that he necessarily intended to kill him.
To prosecute first degree murder charges, they must prove he planned to kill him.
In an appearance on Good Morning America on Thursday morning, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison – who was given the case by the governor on Monday after public faith in local prosecutors dwindled – said it was not out of the question.
Minnesota AG Keith Ellison said on Thursday morning that he had not yet ruled out first degree murder charges against Derek Chauvin, the cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes
L-R: Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J.A. Kueng and Thomas Lane now all face 40 years behind bars
‘We will charge anything that the facts and the law allow. We are not showing fear or favor to any person. If the facts show premeditiation and deliberation and we can present that in front of a jury in good faith, we will present that,’ he said.
Asked whether or not he currently had the evidence to bring a first degree murder charge against Chauvin, he said: ‘I wouldn’t want to comment on what I have or don’t have – we’ve charged the highest ethical charge that we can.’
He dismissed the notion that Floyd may have died for any other reason than that the officer was kneeling on his neck and starving him of oxygen and said the fact that Floyd had fentanyl in his system – something his autopsy revealed – was irrelevant.
‘You take your victim as you find them. You can’t say, “the person that I victimized was not in the perfect picture of health so it’s their fault that they died at my hands.”
‘You take your victim as you find them.
Not only is that a fact that should not weigh but you never know, those kind of things that some defense attorneys are going to try to turn to… we don’t think it matters in terms of proximate cause.
George Floyd was killed on May 25
‘Both the medical examiner reports we’ve seen indicate homicide – death at the hands of another – that is what we think matters most,’ he said.
He also said his office was confident in bringing charges against the other three cops because the evidence – namely cell phone footage of the incident – shows that they helped Chauvin by subduing Floyd and also did nothing when he cried out for breath.
‘If you look at the tape, you can see who is sitting where, and see the assistance that was giving, meaningful and and important assistance to what Chauvin was doing.
‘We can also see what was not done. Even despite the pleas and the cries there was no assistance rendered. We believe they were culpable, they assisted in the commission of this offense – this is why we charged them.’
Ellison said that while the prosecution was an important step in the pursuit of justice, it would not address the nation’s pain and outrage over police brutality and racial inequality.
‘This is a social change moment and a prosecution is essential to achieving that justice but it is not to achieve all the justice and address all the hurt and pain that people have experienced.
Another angle of the infamous video shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck and the three other cops right beside him in Minneapolis last Monday
Quincy Mason Floyd, George Floyd’s adult son, kneeling at the site where his father died on Wednesday afternoon. The family want to see Chauvin charged with first degree murder
Benjamin Crump, the family’s attorney (left) said on Thursday they want Chauvin to be charged with first degree murder
‘Even beyond policing, some of these problems have to do with inadequate housing, poverty and racist attitudes that Americans share that are not even in the police department. All that work needs to be done and now is a good time to do it,’ he said.
Benjamin Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, said on Wednesday that the charges were a ‘bittersweet moment’ for the family.
In an interview with Today on Thursday, he reiterated that they want to see Chauvin prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
‘We believe he had intent based on the police body cam audio when the one officer said ‘he has no pulse, maybe we should turn him on his side?’.
‘Officer Chauvin said, “No. We’ll keep him in this position and stand on his neck for three more minutes while he was unconscious,”‘ Crump said.
A televised memorial for Floyd will take place in Minneapolis on Thursday at 2pm – 30 minutes after the three cops’ first appearance in court.
Crump said they had ‘many high profile’ guests lined up for it.
‘It’s going to be a celebration of life, but it’s also going to be a plea to America, and a plea for justice, that we don’t let his death be in vain.
‘We have a lot of high profile people coming.
‘We want everybody to use their forces to say no more – we’re tired of dying at the hands of the people supposed to protect us,’ he said.