Legal expert discusses Chauvin case as third-degree murder charge appeal debated at appeals court

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It is less than a week until the start of one of the most anticipated court cases in recent decades and more developments have created concern about it starting on time.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin and his defense team will defend their case against the state of Minnesota – jury selection is scheduled to begin March 8. Chauvin is currently charged with manslaughter and second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd.

On Monday, the state and defense started their arguments in the Court of Appeals to get a third-degree murder charge reinstated or not reinstated – it was originally thrown out by the judge in charge of the case, Peter Cahill.

Also, this week – in what could have an impact on the Chauvin trial – the Minnesota Supreme Court announced it was going to look into the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor who was convicted of shooting and killing Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.

Chauvin asks court to dismiss appeal regarding murder charge with Minnesota Supreme Court set to review Noor conviction

To get a gauge for how that will impact the upcoming trial, KSTP brought in a member of the Minnesota Lawyers Hall of Fame – who currently still practices law – Joe Friedberg.

"It’s as unique as anything I’ve seen in my life," Friedberg said.

Not only is he talking about the most recent developments, but also about the journey it took to get here – including a leak that outlined details about a plea deal Chauvin almost took months ago. Something Freidberg says still needs to be looked into.

Despite the developments, Friedberg is confident the trial will start on time.

As for why the state is pushing for a reinstatement of the third-degree murder charge so close to the start of the trial, Friedberg said it could be for personal reasons.

Appeals court judges weigh reinstating 3rd-degree murder charge for Chauvin after hearing argument

"This may be all over someone having their feelings hurt," Friedberg added.

He says the way sentencing is done now, the sentencing guidelines for second and third-degree murder are the same.

But, Friedberg says there is a difference in how prosecutors make their case for the different charges. To convict a person of second-degree murder, one must prove someone killed a person while committing another felony – in Chauvin’s case, according to court documents, it’s third-degree assault.

A third-degree murder conviction does not require another felony.

Despite all of the work to bring back a third-degree charge, Judge Cahill could remove it – as he did before when he said it does not apply to this case – if so, it would be done provisionally.