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What is Aiding and Abetting Second-Degree Murder?

August 13, 2021 / Criminal Defense

Three more police officers face charges for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, making many ask, “What is aiding and abetting second-degree murder?” Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, according to the jury in his Minnesota trial. Three other former officers will also face charges relating to their roles in Floyd’s death.

If you’re charged with aiding and abetting a murder, your life is at stake. In Florida a murder charge is a capital felony, which could mean being put to death or sentenced to life in prison. A Panella Law Firm criminal defense attorney is ready to start your defense as soon as you hire us. Call us at 407-233-1822 to discuss your case.

Three Former Police Officers Charged with Aiding and Abetting in Death of George Floyd

Floyd was killed while being restrained in police custody after they responded to a call reporting that he tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a local store. Floyd was handcuffed and placed face-down on a street after he refused to get into a police car. Chauvin kneeled on his neck for several minutes, and medical experts testifying for the prosecution stated that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen.

Chauvin was sentenced in June 2021 to 22.5 years in prison for intentional second-degree murder, according to NBC News. The other former officers involved in Floyd’s death, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Their trial is scheduled for next March.

It may be harder for the prosecution to convict them because:

  • Their actions may not have directly contributed to Floyd’s death.
  • The prosecution would need to show they knew Chauvin was committing a crime and they intentionally helped Chauvin by what they did (or didn’t do).
  • Their attorneys have a good idea of the prosecution’s strategy given how they handled Chauvin’s trial.

Two of the officers held Floyd down while the third kept bystanders away. They also failed to intervene, despite their training otherwise, and didn’t provide Floyd with medical assistance.

If this incident had happened in Florida, what kinds of charges would these three face? Each state has their own set of criminal statutes. Under Florida law, manslaughter is a crime, but there aren’t different classifications or degrees. There are different degrees of murder, including second degree.

What is Aiding and Abetting?

The definition varies depending on the law of the state in which the crime was committed. Generally, if someone helps another commit a crime, they may be held responsible as if they committed the crime themselves:

  • Minnesota statute states: “A person is criminally liable for a crime committed by another if the person intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit the crime.”
  • Florida law on aiding and abetting states in relevant part: “Any person who knowingly aids, abets, or advises the violation of this code shall be punished in like manner as the principal offender… Any person who agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates with another person to commit a violation of this code shall be punished as if he or she had committed the violation.”

The idea behind these laws is to punish those who help others to commit crimes. If those, possibly working in the background, made the crime possible. They should know that they can be punished as if they directly committed the crime, it might discourage people from giving lawbreakers a hand.

There are different kinds of aiding and abetting, or being an accessory to the crime. You could help the principal offender by planning or preparing for it in some way before it happens, like supplying burglary tools but not being present at the burglary. You might provide aid while the crime is committed (by acting as a lookout to warn the perpetrator that police are coming) or help the principal offender escape the scene and avoid arrest afterward.

However, without knowledge and intent, you can’t aid or abet a crime. If you drive a taxi, pick up and drop off a customer, without knowledge that the person’s trip was to sell drugs or the intent to help the person do that, you wouldn’t be aiding or abetting.

What is Aiding and Abetting Second-Degree Murder?

Florida law breaks down second-degree murder into two definitions. One covers a death that occurs during a specified list of crimes. The other one is closer to Floyd’s situation: “The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree….” Aiding and abetting would be intentionally helping the perpetrator in some way.

What Does Aiding and Abetting Second-Degree Murder Mean?

To be found guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree murder in Florida, the prosecution would need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • Knowingly aided, abetted, or advised, the principal offender, or
  • Agreed, conspired, combined, or confederated with the principal offender, who
  • Unlawfully killed a human being by an imminently dangerous act while showing a depraved mind but without any premeditated design to kill anyone.

What is Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter?

Florida law sets out different situations where a manslaughter charge may apply. The closest definition of manslaughter to Floyd’s case is: “The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification….”

“Procurement” is another way to say “to cause.” “Culpable negligence” means recklessly acting or failing to act, therefore, putting another person at risk of injury or death. To aid and abet you would provide support with the intent to help the person commit manslaughter.

What Does Aiding and Abetting Second-Degree Manslaughter Mean?

To be found guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter in Florida, the prosecution would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • Knowingly aided, abetted, or advised, the principal offender, or
  • Agreed, conspired, combined, or confederated with the principal offender, who
  • Killed a human being without legal justification by the act, cause or recklessly acting (or failing to act) without reasonable caution, possibly causing someone’s injury or death.

Facing an Aiding and Abetting Charge Related to a Homicide? Hire an Attorney You Can Trust.

Attorney Michael Panella defends clients against criminal charges, including aiding and abetting. He can explain your legal options, put together the most effective defense possible, and negotiate the best outcome given the facts of your case. Get your defense started by calling the Panella Law Firm at 407-233-1822 today.

Attorney Mike Panella

For Mike Panella, the concept of zealous advocacy developed at an early age – fueled by what he perceived to be an unjust resolution in a personal family legal matter. Mr. Panella would later attribute his passion to defend the rights of those who stand accused to those inequities in the legal system he observed, and considered unjust. Before opening Panella Law Firm, Mr. Panella served as an Assistant Public Defender for Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office and worked hundreds of cases in both Brevard and Seminole Counties. Mr. Panella was undefeated at trial. [ Attorney Bio ]

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