The third-degree murder charge against former Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, has been dismissed.
On Thursday, a Hennepin County judge dismissed the low-level murder charge against Chauvin for the May 25 death of Floyd, which sparked massive protests and major unrest in Minneapolis and across the United States.
However, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled that the charges against Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter will still stand, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The third-degree murder charge was dismissed because the law demands that someone cause the death of another person while committing an act inherently dangerous to others. Cahill cited past precedents to rule that because no others were placed at risk during the fatal arrest of Floyd, the charge must be dismissed.
In 2014, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided in a 2014 murder case that “third-degree murder ‘cannot occur where the defendant’s actions were focused on a specific person,’” Cahill wrote.
Chauvin was arrested and originally charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter following an uproar resulting from the release of videotaped footage of the apparent killing.
Third-degree murder is a category of murder that only exists in three states: Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. According to Minnesota statutes, a person can be charged with third-degree murder “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind.”
The charges were later increased to second-degree murder after lawyers and members of the legal community saw the third-degree murder count as scandalous and “defective,” eventually costing Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman his control of the case.
“It was an inappropriate charge from the get-go, and it raised a lot of concerns for us as a community law firm about why that charge was brought,” said Legal Rights Center (LRC) executive director Sarah Davis. “It really points to what the community has been saying all along about this prosecution, which is that it truly needs to be truly independent from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.”
Under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, a conviction on charges of unintentional second-degree murder carries a presumptive sentence of 12.5 years. However, a judge can order a sentence of up to 15 years per their discretion. Second-degree manslaughter sentences call for four years in prison but can range up to 4.75 years.
In the same Thursday ruling, the Hennepin County District Court denied motions to dismiss charges against the three other former cops – J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao, and Thomas Lane – who were involved in the killing of Floyd.
The three former officers still face charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter, and all have been fired from the Minnesota Police Department.
In August, Chauvin requested that the judge dismiss his charges, with attorneys claiming that there wasn’t sufficient evidence against him.
Earlier this month, Chauvin was released from Oak Park Heights maximum security prison after posting bond, and was allowed to live in a neighboring state while he awaits trial.
Prosecutors maintain that Floyd was vulnerable while he was handcuffed with his chest pressed into the ground and he was subject to needless cruelty by the arresting officers. Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office has also noted that the ex-cops were in positions of authority at the time but still “inflicted gratuitous pain on Mr. Floyd” while witnesses, including a number of children, stood by and watched.
The killing of Floyd sparked a major period of nationwide unrest and protests against police brutality and racism, as well as a strong backlash from the Trump administration and far-right supporters of the police.
In the dramatic video of the killing, Chauvin, who is white, can be seen pressing his knee down on Floyd’s neck for almost eight minutes as Floyd, a Black man, begs for mercy and cries for his “momma” while his life is sapped away.
“Tell my kids I love them – I’m dead,” he gasps at one point.
Footage of the incident captured by bystanders sent shockwaves across the country and the world that continue to reverberate to this day, despite the spread of outright misinformation about the case by pro-police conspiracy theorists.
The four former police officers are set to face trial in March 2021.
Monolith Identical To One Found in Utah Appears on Hillside in Romania
A metal monolith nearly identical to one that was discovered in the U.S. state of Utah has appeared on a hillside in Romania, not far from a historic fortress.
The mysterious three-sided structure’s appearance in the Balkan country comes around the same time that the monolith in Utah was removed from its remote desert location by an “unknown party,” local authorities said over the weekend.
The shiny pillar was found just last Thursday on Batca Doamnei Hill in the city of Piatra Neamt in the country’s northeastern Neamt County, reports the Daily Mail.
The monolith was located several yards from the Dacian fortress Petrodava, an important archaeological landmark and fort that was built by the ancient Dacian people between 82 B.C. and 106 A.D.
The Dacian fortress was written about by Roman polymath and philosopher Claudius Ptolemy and is the the oldest historical monument in the region. It is believed that the fortress was burned down in the 2nd Century A.D. around the time when the Romans conquered the region, although the ruins of the fortress are still intact and comprise parts of the city wall.
The monolith lies close by, with one side facing Mount Ceahlău, a famous Carpathian mountain listed as one of the country’s Seven Natural Wonders and known to locals as the Holy Mountain.
“We have started looking into the strange appearance of the monolith,” said Neamt Culture and Heritage official Rocsana Josanu. “It is on private property, but we still don’t know who the monolith’s owner is yet. It is in a protected area on an archaeological site.”
“Before installing something there, they needed permission from our institution, one that must then be approved by the Ministry of Culture.”
The strange object bears a striking resemblance to the one recently found, and subsequently disappeared, in the southeastern Utah desert.
The origins of that 12-foot (four-meter) high metal block remain unclear.
The discovery of the monolith by Utah public safety workers in the southwestern U.S. state generated significant viral buzz, with many comparing the monolith to those that trigger massive leaps in human progress in the classic Stanley Kubrick sci-fi film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Others bemoaned the discovery of the object in the turbulent year 2020, with some social media users complaining that the discovery of the monolith had triggered their anxiety over worsening fortunes in the year, including a possible extraterrestrial invasion.
“This is the ‘reset’ button for 2020. Can someone please press it quickly?” one social media user quipped.
However, the structure was removed on Friday night “by an unknown party” from the public land it was found on, the Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office said in a statement.
“We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’, has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party,” the bureau said in a statement.
A Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crew had found the object last Monday while surveying for bighorn sheep.
“IT’S GONE!” the agency said in an Instagram post. “Almost as quickly as it appeared it has now disappeared,” the department continued, adding, “I can only speculate” about the cause of its disappearance, adding the emoji symbol for extraterrestrials.
“Maybe it will stop by and visit us in Canada!!” one person commented.
For the time being, however, the monolith may have decided to park itself in the Carpathian mountain range of Romania.
Megalodon Fossils Show How Biggest-Ever Shark Had Nurseries All Over the World
The massive megalodon, the largest shark to ever roam the seas, had their own nursery areas all over the globe that allowed the apex predators to raise their young and populate the world prior to their extinction.
A new study, published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, reveals that nurseries belonging to the massive creatures have been found in across vast geographic distances where fossils belonging to both young and old megalodons were discovered.
The five likely nurseries include sites off Spain’s east coast, two off the coast of the United States, and two in Panama.
Megalodon (Otodus megalodon), whose name means “large tooth,” lived between 23 million and 3.6 million years ago until it went extinct during a period of global cooling. For 13 million years, the megalodon was the king of the sea.
The megalodon was not only the largest shark in the world, but also the biggest fish – and quite possibly the most powerful predator – to ever exist. Its teeth alone measured 18 centimeters long, and evidence shows that it could have grown to reach up to 60 feet in length.
However, because megalodon bodies were mostly comprised of cartilage – which cannot fossilize – the shark’s teeth, vertebrae and fossilized feces have been the main way researchers have calculated the shark’s body measurements.
The existence of the nurseries shows that young megalodon were still quite susceptible to attacks by other predators.
To keep the young megalodon safe, their shark parents would give birth to their young in shallow, warm water nurseries located near coastlines. In these special regions, juvenile megalodon were able to access their prey while facing few dangers from rival predators.
“Our analyses support the presence of five potential nurseries ranging from the Langhian (middle Miocene) to the Zanclean (Pliocene), with higher densities of individuals with estimated body lengths within the typical range of neonates and young juveniles,” the scientists wrote in the abstract for the study.
“These results reveal, for the first time, that nursery areas were commonly used by O. megalodon over large temporal and spatial scales, reducing early mortality and playing a key role in maintaining viable adult populations,” the authors added.
The nurseries were ideal sites that allowed young megalodons to mature into adults in a process that took about 25 years.
Experts investigated 25 teeth belonging to megalodon that were found in the Reverté and Vidal regions in Tarragona, Spain. The study led to the conclusion that these locations were filled with sharks that had body lengths consistent with the normal range of newborns and young juveniles, measuring 13 feet in length for one-month-old sharks to 36 feet in length for older juveniles.
A separate study released in September found that a 52.5-foot-long adult megalodon had heads that measure up to 15.3 feet long, with dorsal fins measuring about 5.3 feet tall and tails reaching 12.6 feet. To put this into perspective, an adult human could stand on a shark’s back and be roughly the same height as the dorsal fin.
The study’s findings also reveal that the shark’s reliance on nurseries likely played a role in their demise, when the world cooled near the end of the Pliocene period and sea levels declined.
“Ultimately, the presumed reliance of O. megalodon on the presence of suitable nursery grounds might have also been determinant in the demise of this iconic top predatory shark,” the authors of the study noted.
Trump Accuses His Own FBI and Justice Department of ‘Rigging’ Election
Despite finally agreeing to begin the formal transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden last Monday, President Trump on Sunday continued to deny that he lost the election and repeated claims of fraud in his first interview since his Election Day defeat.
“We won the election easily,” the outgoing president falsely claimed on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
This time, however, Trump added a new twist – claiming that his own Department of Justice and FBI had somehow colluded with the “rigging” of the election in Biden’s favor.
“This is total fraud,” the outgoing president said in the interview with Maria Bartiromo. “And how the FBI and Department of Justice—I don’t know—maybe they’re involved, but how people are getting away with this stuff—it’s unbelievable.”
Just over three weeks ago, major networks including Fox News and the Associated Press called Pennsylvania and Nevada in Biden’s favor, pushing him well over the 270 electoral-vote threshold to make him the winner of the Electoral College.
Since then, Trump has refused to concede, and has instead spouted claims of widespread fraud to sow the seeds of doubt in the election results. However, no evidence has been offered to flesh out the claims while the Trump campaign’s legal challenges have failed in court.
“Missing in action. Missing in action,” Trump continued after being asked if the FBI and DOJ were investigating the fraud claims. “Can’t tell you where they are. I ask, ‘Are you looking at it?’ Everyone says, ‘Yes,’ they’re looking at it.”
The accusation is incredible if only because both agencies’ heads were personally handpicked by President Trump.
The FBI is led by director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee who has headed the bureau since 2017. The Justice Department is headed by Attorney General William Barr, who was nominated by the president in 2018 and has long argued in favor of government agencies deferring to presidential authority.
Barr has faced massive criticism from Democrats for actions they perceive as being overly partisan and biased in the president’s favor, including responding to Trump’s claims that he hadn’t actually lost the election by clearing the DOJ to look into voting irregularities prior to the certification of elections.
The move was widely seen as a reversal of guidance meant to prevent federal authorities from intervening in the election, and prompted the DOJ’s Election Crimes Branch head Richard Pilger to resign in protest.
However, this hasn’t prevented Trump from lashing out at the attorney general for his perceived lack of zeal in following his directives. In October, Trump criticized Barr publicly for failing to indict his political enemies, including former President Barack Obama and former Vice President (now President-elect) Joe Biden for their alleged role in the origins of the Russia probe.
Trump’s campaign has launched dozens of ill-fated lawsuits in key swing states won by Biden, with many of the lawsuits being dismissed by Republican-appointed judges.
On Sunday morning, the president further accused the judges of blocking his ability to overturn the election results.
“We’re trying to put the evidence in and the judges won’t allow us to do it,” Trump said.
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