‘The whole world is watching’: Madison attorney weighs in on charges for Minnesota officer Derek Chauvin

MADISON, Wis. – Madison-based criminal defense attorney Chris Van Wagner says there’s an explanation for prosecutors issuing a third-degree murder charge to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

“What happened in Minnesota has everyone’s attention,” Van Wagner, who spent time a federal prosecutor, said.

Van Wagner says the video, which shows Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, eventually killing him, will play a crucial piece of evidence in court.

“Rarely do you have the entire sequence of relevant events captured on at least one video,” he said. “In modern era cases, video is a big part of cases.”

Yet Van Wagner says the charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, which could land Chauvin just 25 years in prison, make sense.

“In Minnesota, first-degree murder is that you intend to cause someone’s death,” he said. “That you caused someone’s death and that you premeditated it.”

He says the element of premeditation would be difficult for a prosecuting attorney to prove to a jury. Rather, a third-degree murder charge, which is not commonly issued in a Wisconsin courtroom, shows a suspect to kill without intent, yet showing a “depraved mind”.

“I think he will be convicted of the charge they filed,” Van Wagner said.

As for the other officers involved, Van Wagner says it’s a matter of time. He says now, it’s likely prosecutors are reviewing body camera footage to determine which charges could be issued.