*NOTE: The initial third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin was elevated to second-degree murder on Wednesday, June 3.
A former Minneapolis police officer who was seen on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, who died in custody after pleading that he couldn't breathe, was charged Friday with two of the same counts that led to a 12 1/2-year prison sentence for another former officer from his department.
State prosecutors charged Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend 12 1/2 years for a conviction on the murder count and four years on the manslaughter charge.
According to Minnesota law, murder in the third degree is committed when there isn't intent or premeditation. A typical use of the third-degree murder charge would be used against a person who fired a gun in to a crowd or drove through a crowded sidewalk.
"Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree," Minnesota statute says.
Chauvin was also brought up on a second charge of second-degree manslaughter. A person can be convicted of manslaughter in the second-degree if they can prove one of five means stated in Minnesota law.
Prosecutors could argue that Chauvin committed "culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another," the statue states.
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor was found guilty on the same charges in May 2019. Noor shot and killed Justine Damond, an unarmed Australian woman living in Minneapolis who was fatally shot after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault.
Noor was sentenced to serve 12 1/2 years in prison.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman also charged Noor with second-degree murder, but the jury acquitted him on that count. The guidelines recommend 12 1/2 years for unintentional second-degree murder but go up to 25 1/2 for intentional second-degree murder.
Judges have some discretion. The guidelines allow a range of nearly 11 years to 15 years for third-degree murder and less than 3 1/2 years to nearly five years for manslaughter, but the system is designed to result in close to the recommended sentence most of the time.