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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

A Minnesota judge on Thursday dropped the third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, but kept the higher charge, KARE 11 reports.

Driving the news: Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill wrote that he was dropping the third-degree murder charge because Chauvin's actions did not put others in danger. Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for several minutes as the Black man cried out, "I can't breathe," still faces the higher second-degree murder charge, as well as a second-degree manslaughter charge.

  • Three other former police officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Cahill ruled against their request to dismiss their charges.

What they're saying: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is handling the prosecution, praised the judge's decision to keep all but one charge in the case.

  • "This is an important, positive step in the path toward justice for George Floyd, his family, our community, and Minnesota," he said in a statement.
  • "This means that all four defendants will stand trial for murder and manslaughter, both in the second degree," he added.
  • Lawyer Ben Crump, who has represented victims of police shootings and their families, and co-counsels released a statement on the judge's decision: “We are gratified that the court preserved eight of the nine charges against Derek Chauvin, including the more serious second-degree murder charge for which we expect a conviction, based on the clear and evident use of excessive force that we all saw on video."
  • "We will continue to fight for justice in the civil courts and will advocate both for justice in the criminal system and for meaningful police reforms. The family of George Floyd has confidence that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will make sure that the officers are held accountable to the full extent of the law based on the evidence that we witnessed on that videotape.”

What's next: The trial for all four former officers is tentatively set for March, but the judge is weighing a motion to try the cases separately, per AP.

Go deeper

Oct 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Omar criticizes fellow House Democrats on police brutality, despite sweeping reform bill

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) told "Axios on HBO" that House Democrats' failure to pass a resolution condemning police brutality that she co-sponsored earlier this year is an indication of her colleagues' inability to meet the moment following the death of George Floyd.

Yes, but: Every House Democrat did vote in June to pass legislation that would have constituted the most drastic overhaul of federal policing laws in decades.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

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Faces of COVID creator on telling the stories of those we've lost

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.