Understanding the Charges Against Derek Chauvin

Recently, the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was on trial for killing George Floyd after kneeling on his neck for around nine minutes, an action that sparked a wave of reckoning over the history of racial divisions in America, came to a close. The verdict was unanimous: Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges pressed against him.

But what do these charges mean, and what will they translate to in terms of sentencing? It can be difficult to understand, especially with so many definitions out there. We here at the Demon Press thought it would be helpful to outline the different charges Chauvin was convicted of, and what they mean.

Charge One: Second-Degree Unintentional Murder

Second degree murder, sometimes referred to as ‘felony murder,’ requires prosecutors to show that the defendant killed another person in the process of committing another crime. In the case of Derek Chauvin, the other crime being committed is third-degree assault. The maximum sentence for this charge is 40 years.

Charge 2: Third-Degree Murder

Third degree murder occurs when one accidentally kills another while acting recklessly and without regard for human life. For example, if you were to sell drugs to another person, and whatever was in those substances killed the person you gave it to, that could be considered third-degree murder. In the Chauvin trial, this meant that prosecutors had to prove that Derek Chauvin acted with wanton disregard for human life when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for the time that he did, and that this action was a factor in Floyd’s death. The maximum sentence for this is 25 years.

Charge 3: Second-Degree Manslaughter

Manslaughter is a slightly less serious charge than murder is. Second-degree manslaughter means that someone acted in a negligent way that posed risk, and that person took the chance of killing another person. The maximum sentence for this crime is 10 years.

Though there seems to be a long way to go until Derek Chauvin’s sentencing, it is helpful to understand the different charges he was convicted of, and their meaning in the context of the case.

— Blake Ciresa