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Minnesota Attorney General Charges Officers in Floyd Case


The white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes now faces a more serious charge. Derek Chauvin is now charged with second-degree murder. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison made that announcement in Minneapolis this afternoon.


KEITH ELLISON: I want to begin with a reminder. And that is that we're here today because George Floyd is not here. He should be here. He should be alive, but he's not.

MCCAMMON: And the other three officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The announcement comes after more than a week of nationwide civil unrest over Floyd's killing. NPR's Adrian Florido has been following the developments and joins me now.

Hi, Adrian.


MCCAMMON: So, Adrian, this is a major development. Tell us about these new charges.

FLORIDO: Well, the first new charge is against Derek Chauvin. As you mentioned, he's the officer - now-former officer who we saw kneeling into George Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes. Last week, county prosecutors charged Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Today Attorney General Keith Ellison, who took over the investigation into the case last weekend, upgraded that third-degree murder charge to murder in the second degree. The rest of the charges filed today are against the three other officers who were involved in Floyd's arrest. They had not been charged before today, and now they have been with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. They've also been charged with aiding and abetting manslaughter. And officials said that they were in the process today of taking those three former officers into custody.

MCCAMMON: And what do these new charges mean? How difficult will it be for prosecutors to win convictions here?

FLORIDO: Well, for Derek Chauvin, a second-degree murder charge is significantly more serious than a third-degree charge. He now faces a maximum 40-year prison term if convicted compared to the 25-year maximum term he faced under the original murder charge. And the aiding and abetting charges against the other three officers also carry maximum 40-year terms - so very serious. And in terms of actually convicting these former officers, the attorney general has always been candid about the difficulty of convicting police officers, which is why he said the investigation is continuing. And I want you to listen to what he said in a press conference this afternoon.


ELLISON: Every single link in the prosecutorial chain must be strong. It needs to be strong because trying this case will not be an easy thing. Winning a conviction will be hard.

FLORIDO: And experts we've spoken with, Sarah, have said that these upgraded charges will make it even more challenging to win convictions. Clearly, the attorney general thinks he has a case to make, which is presumably why he did this.

MCCAMMON: Right. And the family of George Floyd wanted even stronger charges. They wanted first-degree murder charges. This announcement came, as you know, Adrian, not long after Floyd's family visited the site where he was killed. How are they reacting to this news?

FLORIDO: Well, they're generally pleased with the charges. I actually just came from a press conference with the family and their attorney Benjamin Crump. He reiterated that they do want to see first-degree murder charges, but he also said, very interestingly, that family trusts Attorney General Ellison to bring the charges that he thinks are appropriate. Let's listen to what Mr. Crump said.


BENJAMIN CRUMP: The family has never wavered. They want these officers to be held to the full extent of the law. And for only second degree, if what Attorney General Ellison thinks he can prove, then the family is relieved of that. They want the most.

FLORIDO: He said the family has heard from the attorney general that the investigation continues and that if there is evidence to bring a more serious charge, that will happen.

MCCAMMON: So as we've heard, a stronger charge against Derek Chauvin, charges filed against the other three officers who were present. What's next here, Adrian?

FLORIDO: Well, Attorney General Ellison is asking witnesses who may have additional evidence in this case to come forward, to bring it forward. But he's also trying to temper expectations about how quickly this process is going to move forward. The justice system moves slowly, and he expects this process to move slowly, too.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Adrian Florido.

Thanks so much.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Sarah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.
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