Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said on Monday that the Minneapolis Police Department officers involved in the death of George Floyd will be charged to the "highest degree of accountability." During the same interview, to the chagrin of some, he also expressed his belief that "rushing" the investigation would not be helpful.
"Without commenting on the evidence, I will say that first-degree murder is when you premeditate and plan to kill somebody and then you go out and kill them," Ellison, who's leading the prosecution, told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle on Monday when asked about the third-degree murder charge against officer Derek Chauvin. "Second-degree murder is where you didn't premeditate or plan, but you just end up intentionally killing them, or you unintentionally kill them while in the commission of another felony offense. That's second-degree murder. Third-degree murder is where you don't intend to kill anybody but you do something so inherently dangerous that you do kill somebody. There are degrees of murder."
Asked if he was "comfortable" with the degree of murder charge currently brought against Chauvin, Ellison declined to get specific, instead noting that he and his team were reviewing evidence in pursuit of a decision he says will represent justice.
"We are reviewing the evidence and we are reviewing the law and we are going to charge this case in a manner consistent with the highest level of accountability that the facts and the law will support," he said, adding that he didn't have any announcements to make "at this time" regarding additional charges against Chauvin.
As for the remaining officers—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas K. Lane—who haven't been charged in the murder of George Floyd, Ellison explained that his approach to those potential charges was "similar" and was part of a process that remains ongoing.
"The public knows some things about the other officers, but there is a whole body of evidence that we are still reviewing," he said on Monday. "We have to make sure that we look at the facts and the law. We will charge those cases, those individuals, to the highest degree of accountability that the law and the facts will support. But I just wanna let your listeners know that it is essential that this prosecution is viewed as just and fair. I don't want to have to defend this prosecution from false accusations of a rush to judgment or pressure by the public. No, this is justice. We are going on justice and that's what we're gonna do. I know that people are frustrated by the pacing but I wanna assure them as a person who's dedicated my whole life to civil rights and justice, I am going to pursue justice vigorously, relentlessly, uncompromisingly."
Ellison's comments suggesting a potential wait for additional charges or revisions as the case moves forward haven't set well with some, particularly in light of the quickness with which thousands of protesters have been arrested in the wake of George Floyd's death. Ellison made similar pleas to the public to refrain from pushing a rushed prosecution over the weekend and in a separate interview with CNN.
"We are moving as expeditiously, quickly and effectively as we can," Ellison said in the CNN interview. "I need to protect this prosecution. I am not going to create a situation where people can say this was a rush to judgment."