The Legal Rights Center and ACLU of Minnesota Demand Immediate Amendment of the Charges in the Derek Chauvin Criminal Complaint and Appointment of a Special Prosecutor
The Legal Rights Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have grave concerns about the legal sufficiency of the criminal complaint charging former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin with Third Degree Murder in the death of George Floyd. The charging of Third Degree Murder instead of First or Second Degree Murder may prove to be legally defective and allow Chauvin to evade the punishment warranted for his actions.
The issuance of a potentially defective murder charge, combined with the delay by the Hennepin County Attorney’s office in charging Chauvin and the other involved officers, further strengthens and validates demands for appointment of a special prosecutor to handle charges arising from this tragic event and its aftermath. Both the LRC and ACLU-MN fully support and join these demands.
The 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.
The relevant facts in this case are clear. Officer Chauvin's actions were directed solely towards George Floyd and were not “eminently dangerous” to anyone other than George Floyd, although Chauvin and the other officers may well have been aware that their actions would ultimately spark the public outrage that has ravaged the Twin Cities ever since. The charge for Third Degree Murder therefore potentially will not stick.
It is inconceivable that experienced, professional Hennepin County prosecutors did not recognize the potential flaws in the Third Degree Murder charge. Charging Third Degree Murder instead of charging Second Degree murder or seeking an indictment for First Degree murder only serves to further undermine community trust in the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. This is why the LRC and ACLU-MN demand the IMMEDIATE amendment of the murder charge and appointment of a Special Prosecutor.
 State v. Stewart, 276 N.W.2d 51, 54 (Minn. 1979) (emphasis added).
On May 25, 2020, four Minneapolis Police Officers, responding to an allegation of a non-violent forgery, callously, and in gross violation of their oaths, forcibly took the life of Minneapolis resident George Floyd in plain view of many terrified citizens.
Please man, I can’t breathe.
The circumstances which led to Mr. Floyd’s death were the opposite of civilized policing. The officers’ badges, at the time of the incident and seemingly at present, have only acted to shield them from the consequences which any other person under the circumstances would most certainly have faced: immediate arrest. The gratuitous use by the police of excessive force in causing the needless deaths of other black men in our community remain all too fresh in the collective memories of communities of color. It is difficult to process the officers’ blatant and extended indifference to the life of a person they were sworn to protect.
Earlier today, the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) announced that the Legal Rights Center has been awarded a COVID-19 Youth Justice Response Fund grants to decarcerate youth correctional facilities amidst the global coronavirus pandemic. The LRC will coordinate with a coalition of racial justice organizations to review all out of home placements and create an online community resource map to show youth are able to be better served at home.
As Minnesota takes steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, one group of young people is being left behind: the hundreds of children in custody in the state of Minnesota. We must take decisive action to protect Minnesota’s young people in those settings. Behind bars, youth have limited freedom to participate in proactive measures to keep themselves safe, such as social distancing, frequently washing hands, or staying in sanitized spaces. Further, Minnesota’s detention and correctional facilities are not equipped to meet the medical needs of youth if a COVID-19 outbreak should occur. Youth will not have many options to stay away from others if they become ill and there are limited infirmary beds. If staff become ill, it will be difficult to provide care and support to youth, and if lockdowns are utilized, that will only intensify virus infection rates. We believe that youth will be safer at home and in their respective communities.
We are thankful to the NJJN and its donors for their support, and will continue to explore opportunities to better serve, and advocate for, the youth of Minnesota.
By: Nicholas Pouladian - Staff Attorney (Community Defense Program)
We’ve all seen it in a movie or television show at one point or another – cop arrests suspect, handcuffs them, and immediately starts reading them the ever-famous Miranda rights:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights?”
What happens next is the suspect completely ignores this right, and gives a full confession. But, what if the suspect instead told the officers: “I am invoking my right to remain silent pursuant to my 5th Amendment Right against self-incrimination, and I will not be answering any questions.”? Would things have turned out differently?
In this post, we discuss your right to remain silent, what it is and where it comes from, and how you can and should always, always, always exercise this right. It should be noted that along with the right to remain silent, people also have the right to consult with an attorney – this will be discussed in another post.
ARE YOU READY TO LEAD US INTO THE FUTURE?
Celebrating our 50th year of providing the highest quality criminal defense and restorative justice services working with clients from diverse communities, the Legal Rights Center is looking for a visionary, collaborative, confident, accomplished and passionate Executive Director with a track record of success in non-profit, community-based organization and/or business management, leadership and growth.
Our next Executive Director will build on a strong foundation, a storied history of community involvement, innovative service offerings, and a highly-skilled, admired and innovative staff. Working with a board comprised of members from the Native American, African American, and immigrant communities as well as members from the legal community, our next Executive Director must have a community-oriented mindset, social entrepreneurial and team-building/people development skills, financial and fundraising acumen, and a clear focus on the strategies and tactics essential for fulfilling its mission to obtain fair and equitable justice for its clients.
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.