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In the recent trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, today he was found guilty on all charges. Those charges include:

  • Murder in the Second Degree (Murder 2)
  • Murder in the Third Degree (Murder 3)
  • Manslaughter in the Second Degree (Manslaughter 2)

Now here's my question: One person died. Three charges, all called "Murder" or "Manslaughter". Defendant found guilty on all. How can someone be guilty of 3 different charges for killing someone when only 1 person died, without violating double jeopardy rules (that you can't be charged more than once for the same crime)?

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These charges aren't the same offense. They are three different offenses, all of which arise from the same conduct.

Imagine throwing a grenade in a building because you saw a police officer about to discover evidence connecting you to a crime. I think most people would agree that there's no reason you could not be charged with murder, arson, and tampering with evidence under those circumstances.

Likewise, Chauvin committed multiple distinct offenses when he kneeled on George Floyd's neck -- for instance, murder charges are based on the act of causing a death, while manslaughter charges are based on the act of creating a risk of death -- and the state is free to seek punishment for all of those offenses.

Double jeopardy doesn't have any application to the case at this point. The Double Jeopardy Clause doesn't say you can't face multiple charges for the same conduct; it says you can't face multiple trials for the same charges.

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    There's the concept of a "lesser included offense", and this answer really needs an explanation of why third-degree murder isn't a lesser included offense of second-degree murder. – Mark Apr 21 at 6:43

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