Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, has requested a judge dismiss the murder charges as prosecutors push for longer prison sentences.
On Friday, an attorney for Chauvin filed a motion in court that argued there was no probable cause to support the second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges pinned to his client.
The motion claimed that Floyd’s death was caused drugs in his system, not Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for an extended period.
‘Put simply, Mr. Floyd could not breathe because he had ingested a lethal dose of fentanyl,’ the filing said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (left) on Friday asked that a judge dismiss his murder charges in the death of George Floyd (right)
The filing also argued that pre-existing conditions like sickle cell trait, heart disease and COVID-19 could have exacerbated the the drugs.
Chauvin, 44, was first charged in June after Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died while in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Footage taken by witnesses showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while he pleaded ‘I can’t breathe!’
Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Kiernan and Tou Thao were at the scene during the incident. They assisted in restraining Floyd.
Floyd eventually lost consciousness and was transported to a local hospital before he died.
Cell phone footage of the disturbing detainment was shared to social media and directly inspired a wave of anti-police brutality, Black Lives Matter protests that have continued for more than 10 weeks.
Footage of the incident showed Floyd pleading with officers that he ‘can’t breathe,’ but they ignored him and continued to detain him
Chauvin was slapped with murder charges, while the three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
All four officers were fired from their positions at the Minneapolis Police Department.
The initial toxicology report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner said Floyd had 11 nanograms of fentanyl in his blood at the time and that may have contributed to his death.
But a second autopsy commissioned by the Floyd family reported that he died from mechanical asphyxiation due to Chauvin kneeling on his airway.
The difference in autopsy reports, as well as discussions between prosecutors and the examiner in June, is what the motion hinges on.
Dr. Andrew Baker had previously told prosecutors that the level of fentanyl of Floyd’s system would be enough to categorize his death as an overdose.
‘If [Mr. Floyd] were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes, it would have been acceptable to label his death an overdose,’ the motion said, reports WSJ.
While Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Kiernan helped restrain him
Pictured (left to right): Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Kiernan and Tou Thao
The motion also declared that Chauvin had assumed Floyd was simply resisting arrest and did not realize he could not breathe – despite Floyd saying so several times.
‘What Mr. Chauvin saw was a strong man struggling mightily with police officers, which seemed contradictory to Mr. Floyd’s claims about not being able to breathe,’ it said.
‘Mr. Chauvin could not have known about Mr. Floyd’s underlying issues when he arrived on the scene.’
Additionally, Chauvin’s attorney cited Dr. Baker’s remarks that he had found no physical evidence of asphyxiation with Floyd.
He instead listed the death was ‘cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law-enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.’
The defendants added to the motion that the medical examiner found no bruising on Floyd’s back or neck, which they argued showed Chauvin had not meant to harm the father-of-five.
The three other officers previously filed motions to dismiss their charges.
Nationwide demonstration overtook the United States this summer after George Floyd was killed in police custody on Memorial Day
Additionally, Chuavin asked for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to be removed from the case over what his legal team deemed ‘an inappropriate, pretrial publicity campaign.’
Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the Floyd family, called Friday’s motion ‘a desperate attempt with charlatan tactics.’
‘The whole world saw what happened, and that video speaks for itself,’ he wrote in a statement to WSJ.
All four men are currently scheduled to stand trial on March 8, 2021, in Hennepin County and none of the charges have yet to be altered.
It has not been decided if the four men will be tried together, but state attorneys filed a motion to do just that two weeks ago.
They argued that all factors needed to conduct a joinder trial were met.
Prosecutors on Friday notified the courts of their intentions to seek upward sentencing departures, or longer prison sentences, for each man.
Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office filed the motion, Star Tribune reports, and listed five reasons as to why the men’s sentences should be expanded.
Pictured: Demonstrators march during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in New York City
First, Floyd was ‘particularly vulnerable’ because he was handcuffed while pinned to the ground during the incident.
‘Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty,’ wrote Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank and Special Attorney for the State Neal Katyal as a second point.
Despite pleas from both Floyd and concerned bystanders, the four officers continued to detain him.
‘This maneuver inflicted gratuitous pain on Mr. Floyd,’ the filing stated.
The officers abusing their position of authority, the fact that the incident happened in front of children and the four men acted as a group were also listed as reasons.
If convicted, Chauvin could face up to up to 40 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge.