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The Murder Of Black Man in US: Should The Charge Be Third Degree Murder, Manslaughter , Or First Degree Murder?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

One issue since last weekend that is making headlines worldwide is that story of the murder of one victim, George Floyd, 46, a black man who died last Monday and video showed him gasping for breath as a white policeman knelt on his neck. This incident has sparked off protests in many parts of the United States.

The incident has been condemned by many, as US President Donald Trump was said to be upset when he saw the video.

The white officer was seen using his knee to pin Mr. Floyd to the ground by the neck as Mr. Floyd groaned “please, I can’t breathe” and “don’t kill me”. The city has identified the four officers involved as Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng.

Local media have named Mr. Chauvin as the officer seen with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated the state’s National Guard troops on Thursday, declaring the situation a “peacetime emergency”. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called on Wednesday for criminal charges against the policeman who was filmed pinning down Mr. Floyd. Four police officers involved in the arrest have already been fired.

The incident echoed the case of Eric Garner, who was placed in a police chokehold in New York in 2014. His death became a rallying cry against police brutality and a catalyst in the Black Lives Matter movement.

During the protest in the aftermath of the incident, police and protesters clashed for a second night in the US City of Minneapolis after an unarmed black man died in police custody.

As a result of the protest, tear gas was fired by police, while protesters threw rocks and sprayed graffiti. Businesses were also looted.

The second night of demonstrations on Wednesday, the crowd grew into the thousands, with protesters pelting rocks and some throwing tear-gas canisters back at police.

There was a standoff outside the police station where officers formed a human barricade to prevent protesters gaining entry.

Sadly to note, it was reported that banks, cheques-cashing, shops and liquor stores were hit, while the windows of a public library branch were also smashed in, the bookshelves and reading desks scattered with glittering fragments.

The classrooms of a charter school in the same strip mall complex as the ‘Target’ were under several inches of water, as a security alarm droned on from somewhere.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that the accused Derek Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Monday’s death of George Floyd. Chauvin, 44, is accused of keeping his knee on the 46-year-old man’s neck for more than eight minutes. The report said if convicted, Chauvin could spend more than a dozen years in prison.

It is said that President Donald Trump “was very upset” when he saw the footage of Mr. Floyd’s death, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Thursday. “He wants justice to be served.” Equally, a number of celebrities and athletes, including John Boyega, LeBron James, Beyonce, and Justin Bieber, have also expressed outrage over the incident.

The Minneapolis Police Officers Federation said the officers were co-operating with the investigation. In a statement to local media, the union said “now is not the time to rush to judgment,” adding, “We must review all videos. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report.”
Once again, as I stated in a previous article, this is not to review this incident on the basis of racism, but from the issue regarding MURDER. In a simplest sense, “is the killing of another human being, “which carries with it certain elements. Additionally, it is the ”killing of a human being.” Such act can be categorized in various groups based on the facts and circumstances.

Today, my focus is on the charges levied against the accused which are third-degree murder and manslaughter. It is said that most states separate murder charges into two categories. Minnesota, however, it has been gathered that is one of three states that have three degrees of MURDER. The other two are Florida and Pennsylvania. It said that in third-degree murder and manslaughter charges, intent is a deciding factor.

According to state statutes, a person can be charged with third-degree murder “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind,” without regard for life and without intent to kill. A person can be convicted of manslaughter in the second degree if they can prove one of five means under Minnesota law.

According to the report, persons convicted of third-degree murder could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, a fine up to US$40,000, or both, according to Minnesota statutes. However, the state’s sentencing guidelines normally recommend 12 1/2 years for a conviction on the murder charge and four years for manslaughter.

My concern today is whether or not these two charges are appropriate based on the facts and circumstances of the matter. That is; should the accused be charged with third degree murder and manslaughter? Even though I am not a member and will never be a member of either the prosecution or defense teams, however, for intellectual purposes, I’ve decided to share my view on a crucial matter that has ignited widespread PROTESTS in the United States, the world’s greatest democracy.

To proceed further, let us first look at the definitions of degrees in murder cases and also manslaughter. The Black’s Law Dictionary refers to First-degree murder as “a murder that is willful and deliberate, or premeditated, or that is committed during the course of another dangerous felony. All murders perpetrated by poisoning or by lying in wait are considered first degree murder.”

For Second Degree Murder, it says it is a murder that is not aggravated by any of the circumstances of first degree. All types of murders not involving willful, deliberate and premeditated killing are usually considered second degree murder. Murder of the second degree is considered murder two, while for Third Degree Murder, it says it is wrong that it did not constitute murder at common law.

Only a few state have added to their murder statutes a third degree of murder. Manslaughter is not a degree of the crime of murder but instead is a distinct offense. It defines manslaughter, as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.

In view of these definitions and in consideration of the facts and circumstances in the matter at bar, to charge the accused with third degree murder and manslaughter is only intended to mitigate or lessen his punishment in such a matter that has brought the state police to public ridicule and disgrace. Besides, it has caused embarrassment for the entire country, as evidenced by the widespread PROTESTS.

By viewing the video in which the accused in the presence of other police officers was seeing strangulating the victim, despite pleas from the victim who repeatedly said “please, I can’t breathe” and “don’t kill me,” the appropriate charge in this matter is first Degree Murder because it was a murder that was willful and deliberate, or premeditated from the behavior of the accused, using a force that was not proportionate to a man who was incapacitated as he was handcuffed.
In fact those police officers on the scene should be held as accomplices or accessories.

Regarding manslaughter, which is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, it cannot hold in this matter.

As I said earlier, manslaughter cannot hold because the issue of malice was exhibited by the accused considering how the accused treated the victim. It is said in the case of manslaughter that it is killing of human being without malice.

But in this case, the accused exhibited malice. MALICE, as it is known refers to the “intent, without justification or excuse, to commit a wrongful act, or a reckless disregard of the law or of a person’s legal rights. Example, ill will;, wickedness of heart.”

In this matter, the evidence shows that the accused committed the act without disregard of the law and a person’s legal rights. Let even take for granted that the victim violated a law and was arrested, does the treatment meted out against him justified?

To make long matter short, the police officer and his colleagues who were on the scene exhibited ill-will and wickedness of heart” because as law enforcement officers, they knew the act was unlawful. Hence, MALICE has been established.

Once more, the most appropriate charge in this matter, based on the incontrovertible pieces of evidence available, is First Degree Murder and not Third Degree Murder and Manslaughter.

I Rest My Case.

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