Unpacking the George Floyd Debacle

Daniel Chauvin is the man who is singularly responsible for the riots all over our country. He knelt on a man’s neck for nearly 9 minutes causing heart failure. The State of Minnesota charged Chauvin with third-degree murder (more on this in a second) and second-degree manslaughter (involuntary manslaughter). The medical examiner subsequently released a report that Floyd’s death was likely caused by a number of factors, including Chauvin’s “negligence”, evidence of drugs in his system, and pre-existing health problems. This was all in a bid to set up a negligent homicide defense.

Unlike most states, Minnesota has three degrees of murder. First-degree murder and second-degree murder are likely familiar. But third-degree murder is something similar to negligent homicide or manslaughter, just in a higher degree. In fact, the statutes for third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter are quite similar. Third-degree murder evinces a more “depraved mind” that manslaughter. It’s still a negligence crime, but the degree to which the defendant disregarded the life of the other person is higher. It is likely that the medical examiner and the Minneapolis police department was hoping that Chauvin would get a 2nd-degree manslaughter charge and serve around four years.

Family Releases Their Own Medical Exam

In response, the family hired their own medical examiner to conduct an autopsy on George Floyd. His findings were not the same as the state’s medical examiner's. The Floyd medical examiner named the cause of death as asphyxiation and stated plainly that it was murder. In response, the state medical examiner issued a report of all the drugs that were found in Floyd’s system but included (for the first time) the word “homicide” in the report. Many media outlets took this as a sign of capitulation, but it wasn’t.

Homicide and murder are distinct under the law. All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. Murder requires malice aforethought, a legal concept built on the concept of mens rea or a “guilty mind”. In order to prove murder, you must prove an intent, or malice aforethought.

After pressure from the Attorney General, the city refiled the charges against Chauvin (second-degree murder) and charged each of the police officers that watched him with aiding and abetting. This makes sense. In Minnesota, the felony murder statute is the same as second-degree murder. So that doesn’t feel so much like the Minneapolis police department is attempting to protect Chauvin from a crime he clearly committed.

Why Charging Police Officers is Crucial

The rule of law is supposed to be uniformly applied. It is codified into our Constitution in the 14th Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. When the rule of law is not uniformly applied, people lose respect for the rule of law. That’s how you end up with riots. When those who enforce the rule of law are not beholden to the rule of law, you have the conditions necessary for a police state.

Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with a crime, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more about how we can help.



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