CBS: Chauvin might have had a personal motive for assault on Floyd

This might explain why the state hiked the charges against Derek Chauvin from third-degree to second-degree murder. Information about Chauvin and George Floyd overlapping work at the same nightclub came out early after Floyd’s death under Chauvin’s knee, but a mutual co-worker now tells CBS News’ Jeff Pegues that the two “bumped heads” during that period. David Penny says they had a “history” over treatment of the patrons, and Penny says there is no way that Chauvin wouldn’t have recognized Floyd at the time of the arrest:

Penny doesn’t seem to be a solid witness to any conflict between Chauvin and Floyd, as he tends to put this testimony in terms of hearsay. If police have a stronger statement from Penny, or better testimony from direct witnesses to any conflict, that would make their case stronger. The bar owner doesn’t help much in telling Pegues that she doesn’t recall any dispute in pay. However, she does say that she had some issues with Chauvin over his aggressiveness “toward minority customers,” but that she worried about replacing him with another police officer who might be worse.

Pegues notes that this could very well go to the question of intent. In fact, Pegues reports that his sources say the investigation has already begun to explore the personal relationship and conflicts between the two men that might have played into the outcome. The problem with this strategy is that it still doesn’t quite fit into a second-degree murder definition, at least in Minnesota, unless they can establish that Chauvin formed a specific intent to kill in the moment based on that previous conflict over pay and alleged accusations of racism. That seems like pretty weak sauce as a motive; they’re better off sticking with the theory that Chauvin committed felonious assault on Floyd and killed him without forming that intent. That fits neatly within second-degree murder statute, assuming they can establish the felonious assault; otherwise, the jury might come back with manslaughter instead.

That might not be the last word on charges, however. Prosecutors could also be thinking about a grand-jury indictment for first-degree murder. The state and the county can’t file that charge without a grand jury, but they are under considerable pressure from the Floyd family and activists to escalate the charges to that level. For that, they would definitely need to form both intent and premeditation, but the latter does not need to be a lengthy process. If Chauvin formed an intent to kill Floyd sometime during the arrest, that might be enough — and keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight-plus minutes even after he passed out could be evidence of that intent, and perhaps the short premeditation. Still a reach, but they could include the lesser charges as a backstop, too.

At the very least, this does establish that the two knew each other well enough to recognize each other, as the Floyd family has insisted all along. That might make this a much more personal issue, especially for jurors who watch that video and wonder why Chauvin seemed so determined to keep his knee on Floyd’s neck.