On May 31, 2020, we wrote that;
"[T]he complaint filed by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charging former officer Chauvin with Third Degree Murder is potentially deficient on its face and therefore incurably defective because, under Minnesota law, Third Degree Murder applies only when the acts of the defendant were committed without regard to their effect on any particular person, and not when the actions were directed to a specific person. Minnesota courts have repeatedly ruled that to support a charge of Third Degree Murder, the offender’s actions need to be “eminently dangerous to more than one person.” This has been the law in Minnesota since 1896 and includes numerous State Supreme Court decisions stretching all the way to the present saying the same thing."
Since then there has been a lot written about the legal drama being played out between the Hennepin Co. District Court, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and now the Minnesota Supreme Court. Our stance on this issue has not changed.
We've created the infographic above in an attempt to explain why we believe the 3rd Deg. Murder charge currently at issue in the trial of Derek Chauvin is inappropriate. Please, use and share this information.
In addition, Judge Cahill has previously indicated that he does not currently have jurisdiction over the question of reinstating the previously dismissed charge. More thoughts on that after the jump.
To Stay or Not to Stay: Proceeding under questionable jurisdiction.
Monday morning began with an abrupt end, as a group of potential jurors were sent home less than an hour after the trial of Derek Chauvin commenced jury selection. The early dismissal relates back to the Court of Appeals Friday action, remanding the District Court’s decision to dismiss a charge for third-degree murder. If the Defense had agreed to the immediate entry of judgement on the remanded charge by the Court of Appeals, there would be no delay. However, the Defense noted their intention to file a petition for review by the Minnesota Supreme Court. As the Defense awaits the Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling on the contentious third-degree murder charge, the State believes the District Court cannot continue without a final decision.
How far does the jurisdiction of the trial court stretch? In a Monday morning filing of a Motion for a Stay of the District Court Proceedings Or, In the Alternative, A Writ of Prohibition, the State argued the District Court’s reach fell short of continuing trial proceedings. The State argued that the Court needs to to hold off from selecting jury members until all of the potential judgments are entered. While the trial court retains jurisdiction over matters “independent of, supplemental to, or collateral to the order or judgment,” it lacks the “authority to make any order that affects the order or judgment appealed from.” Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 108.01 subd. 2. The State claims there is lack of jurisdiction to start juror selection until the Supreme Court’s acceptance or denial of the Defense’s third-degree murder charge appeal.
Judge Cahill disagrees with the State’s position and instead believes the pending charge is of supplemental, independent, or collateral nature, at least enough to proceed with jury selection. Consequently, the District Court moved forward today (Tuesday), and will continue unless the Court of Appeals grants the motion to stay or enforces a writ of prohibition.
Additionally, jury selection is going to be a laborious task, as finding any impartial community member to this momentous trial will be challenging. If a third-degree murder charge is not absolutely certain to be reinstated, is it merely an independent, supplemental, or collateral addition? Does the undecided fate of the 3rd degree murder charge ultimately affect the selection of a jury? Enough so to potentially delay the trial almost a month (or longer)? While the State thinks so, the growing anticipation and heightened tension felt worldwide, may argue otherwise.
LRC staff include attorneys and advocates from a range of background and lived experiences.
The Legal Rights Center
1611 Park Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
P: 612-337-0030 F: 612-337-0797
The Legal Rights Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit financially supported by: the State of Minnesota, foundations, local law firms, corporations and individuals. Clients are never charged for our services.