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Judge Reinstates Third-Degree Murder Charge Against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd Case

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  • Judge Peter Cahill reinstated a third-degree murder charge Thursday against Derek Chauvin, the former police officers on trial for his role in the death of George Floyd.
  • Cahill initially rejected the charge in October, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last week that he must reconsider it.
  • Chauvin’s defense lawyer asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision. The request was rejected Wednesday, prompting Cahill to restore the charge.
  • If convicted on the added charge, Chauvin could serve up to 25 years in prison. He was already facing two other charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter, which carry maximum sentences of 40 years and 10 years respectively.

Charge Against Chauvin Reinstated 

The judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, officially reinstated a third charge against him for third-degree murder on Thursday.

Prosecutors had initially filed the charge against Chauvin along with two other counts of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. However, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the third charge in October, arguing at the time that it required proof Chauvin was “eminently dangerous to others,” not just to Floyd.

Last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered Cahill to reconsider the charge, citing precedent from a recent ruling they made in a case involving another former Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor.

Noor had been convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter for fatally shooting a woman who approached his squad car after she had called 911 about a possible sexual assault behind her home in 2017.

The court of appeals rejected Noor’s attempt to have that conviction thrown out last month, thus establishing the precedent that third-degree murder charges can apply to acts directed at a single person.

Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Review Request

Chauvin’s lawyer asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision, which denied that request on Wednesday.

The defense continued to argue in court Thursday morning that Chauvin’s case was fundamentally different than Noor’s, but Cahill said that he was now bound by the ruling.

“The court of appeals has said in a precidential opinion specifying the single person rule applies to third-degree murder,” he said. “I feel it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion.”

Notably, Cahill did tell Chauvin’s attorney that he has the right to ask for more time to prepare a defense, but the lawyer said he was ready to move forward with jury selection. As of Thursday morning, six members of the jury had been selected so far for the trial, which will have a panel of 12 jurors and up to four alternates.

Currently, everything appears to be on pace for opening arguments to begin on March 29 as scheduled. 

Now, jurors will have another option for conviction, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. That is on top of the second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter charges, which are punishable by up to 40 years and 10 years respectively.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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U.S. Pledges To Donate 500 Million More Vaccines Globally

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The announcement comes as wealthy nations face pressure to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic and as American vaccine makers face calls to share their technology.


Biden Promises More Vaccines

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for countries in need, bringing the total number of U.S. vaccine donations to more than 1.1 billion.

Biden’s pledge, which was made at a virtual COVID-19 summit, comes as world leaders and organizations have criticized wealthy nations for not doing enough to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic. Many have also slammed countries like the U.S. for moving forward with plans for booster shots while so much of the world remains unvaccinated.

According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, of the six billion shots administered globally, nearly 80% percent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries compared to just 0.5% in low-income countries.

While several wealthy nations begin to give booster shots, just 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

Pressure Grows for American Companies to Share Vaccine Technology

It’s not just wealthy countries and their leaders that are being met with criticism over the massive vaccination gap. There is also a lot of growing pressure on American drug companies to share their formulas with manufacturers in poor nations that need more doses.

Senior officials told The New York Times that the Biden administration privately asked Pfizer and Moderna to engage in joint ventures where they license their technology to contract manufacturers in an effort to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income nations.

While those conversations reportedly prompted Pfizer to sell the U.S. the 500 million doses announced this Wednesday at a not-for-profit price, the company still refused to license its technology.

Meanwhile, the alleged discussions appear to have had no impact at all on Moderna. 

Many have argued the Moderna has even more of an obligation to share its technology given that it was developed in part by the National Institutes of Health. On top of that, the company accepted an additional $2.5 billion in taxpayer money as part of Operation Warp Speed.

In a statement to The Times on Tuesday, a Moderna spokeswoman said that the company had agreed not to enforce its COVID-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.”

But experts say that vaccine technology is needed now, not when the pandemic is over. 

Many have argued that Biden should put more pressure on the companies to share their intellectual property, including some legal experts who said he could compel them to do so using the Defense Production Act, which gives the president broad emergency powers.

Administration officials, however, have argued that forcing the companies to share the information is more complicated, and any efforts to do so would result in legal battles that will ultimately be counterproductive. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation

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Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.


Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed

A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.

The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.

In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.

“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”

Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.

“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

Potential Litigation

If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.

A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”

Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.

Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.

Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11

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Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works

Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.

While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.

Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults. 

Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage. 

That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.

Overeager Parents

While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course. 

With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.

“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)

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