How Can Derek Chauvin be Convicted of Three Crimes for the Killing of George Floyd?
Many people have asked this question after Derek Chauvin was convicted of three crimes, second degree murder, third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd. How is this possible? After all, his actions resulted in only one death?
Minnesota Law on Second Degree Murder and Manslaughter
In Minnesota, if a person’s singular actions constitute more than one crime, he can be charged with and convicted of each crime. However, he may be sentenced for only one of the offenses, and a conviction or acquittal of any one of them is a bar to prosecution for any other of them.
Minnesota law is designed to limit punishment to a single sentence where a single behavioral incident results in the violation of more than one criminal statute. Thus, if a defendant commits multiple offenses against the same victim during a single behavioral incident, Minnesota law provides that the defendant may be sentenced for only one of those offenses. In Minnesota, multiple punishment refers not to multiple convictions but multiple sentences and any multiple sentences, including concurrent sentences,
are barred. The law in Minnesota ensures that punishment is commensurate with the crime committed.
In other words, because Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd during a single behavioral incident, he can only be sentenced for only one of the offenses. This is despite that fact that he was charged with three different crimes.
Louisiana Law on Second Degree Murder and Manslaughter
In Louisiana, the law is quite different because the law states that where a single behavioral incident results in the violation of more than one criminal statute, the person can only be charged with one crime. For example, in Louisiana, Derek Chauvin could have been charged with second degree murder. And if he had been charged with second degree murder in Louisiana, he could not have been charged with another homicide like manslaughter or negligent homicide. However, when a Louisiana jury
deliberates in a case where the defendant has been charged with second degree murder, the jury is given a choice of verdicts. This system refers to Louisiana’s system of responsive verdicts.
With responsive verdicts, criminal defendants are entitled to have the jury consider all verdicts that are responsive to the principal charge. This means that the jury must consider all crimes that are said to be a lesser and included grade of the offense charged. A lesser offense is included in the charge of the greater offense if all of the elements of the lesser crime are included in the definition of the greater offense. This allows members of the jury, who may interpret the evidence differently, to compromise
and agree on the appropriate verdict. So, if Derek Chauvin had been charged with second degree murder under Louisiana law, the jury could find him guilty of the one of the following crimes:
1. Guilty of second degree murder.
2. Guilty of manslaughter.
3. Guilty of negligent homicide.
4. Not guilty.
Under the facts presented in the Derek Chauvin case, he could not have been charged with second degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. But the jury could have found him guilty of either crime. So in effect, although Minnesota law is different from Louisiana, there are some similarities in that the criminal defendant can be punished for only one crime when there is only behavioral incident.
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This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your family member. © 2021 Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law.