A third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was dropped by a Minnesota judge on Thursday. Chauvin was shown on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after the incident.
Floyd's autopsy revealed that he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, and was positive for COVID-19 at the time of his death.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill also let stand all other charges against Chauvin's co-defendants.
Cahill ruled that while third-degree murder is applicable in cases when a defendant's actions could have harmed others, prosecutors are accusing Chauvin in the death of just one victim, Floyd. -NBC News
"The language of the third-degree murder statute explicitly requires the act causing the 'death of another' must be eminently dangerous 'to others'," wrote Judge Cahill.
According to Minnesota Attorney General and Antifa supporter Keith Ellison, the dismissal is no big deal.
"The court has sustained eight out of nine charges against the defendants in the murder of George Floyd, including the most serious charges against all four defendants," Ellison said in a statement.
"This means that all four defendants will stand trial for murder and manslaughter, both in the second degree. This is an important, positive step forward in the path toward justice for George Floyd, his family, our community, and Minnesota. We look forward to presenting the prosecution’s case to a jury in Hennepin County."
That said, according to law professor Mark Osler of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota - a former federal prosecutor - losing the 3rd degree charge might mean jurors who are uncomfortable convicting Chauvin of second-degree murder won't have the lesser charge to fall back on.
"They wouldn't have charged it if they didn't want it going in front of a jury," Osler told NBC News. "You always want to give options to a a jury."