Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was sentenced to 22.5 years in jail for the death of George Floyd, whose last breaths under Chauvin’s knee sparked the country’s worst racial uproar in decades.
The sentence, which fell short of the prosecution’s request of 30 years, came after Chauvin broke his almost year-long silence in court to express his sympathies to the Floyd family and express his hope that further information may ultimately provide them with “some peace of mind.”
Chauvin, 45, maybe released after completing two-thirds of his sentence, or approximately 15 years, if he maintains good behavior.
Judge Peter Cahill went above and beyond the state’s recommended sentence of 12.5 years, citing Chauvin’s abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular “cruelty” displayed to Floyd in his decision.
Chauvin was sent back to prison right away. He exhibited no emotion as the judge read the punishment, as he did when the verdicts were read in April. His COVID-19 mask obscured much of his face, hiding any emotion he may have expressed.
On May 25, 2020, the dismissed white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter after placing his knee over Floyd’s neck for up to 9 1/2 minutes while the 46-year-old Black man struggled for air and fell limp.
Bystander footage of Floyd’s arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 note at a corner store sparked worldwide outrage and sparked riots in Minneapolis and elsewhere.
Chauvin, who did not testify at his trial, removed his mask and turned toward the Floyd family on Friday, addressing just briefly due to “some additional legal matters at hand,” presumably referring to the federal civil rights trial he is currently facing.
“But very briefly, though, I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind,” he remarked, without going into detail.
Defense counsel Eric Nelson termed Floyd’s death “tragic” and claimed Chauvin’s “brain is littered with what-ifs” from that day in his request to keep Chauvin on probation: “What if I just did not agree to go in that day? What if things had gone differently? What if I never responded to that call? What if what if what if?”
Floyd’s family members testified, expressing their grief over his passing. They demanded the maximum punishment.
“We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist. We’ve been through that already,” Terrence Floyd, one of Floyd’s brothers, said, his eyes welling up with tears.
“Our family is forever broken,” Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams said. In a video presented in court, Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, stated that if she could say anything to her father right now, it would be, “I miss you and I love you.”
Prosecutor Matthew Frank requested the judge to go above and beyond the recommendations and sentence Chauvin to 30 years in jail, claiming that the officer “tortured” Floyd.
“This is not a momentary gunshot, punch to the face. This is 9½ minutes of cruelty to a man who was helpless and just begging for his life,” Frank explained.
Carolyn Pawlenty, Chauvin’s mother, came in court to appeal for his son’s release, claiming that his image has been unfairly tarnished as “an angry, cruel, and uncaring person” as well as racist.
She informed the judge, “I can tell you that is far from the truth.” “I want this court to know that none of these things are true, and that my son is a good man … Derek, I want you to know I have always believed in your innocence, and I will never waver from that.” she said.
“I will be here for you when you come home,” she promised.
The concrete barriers, razor wire, and National Guard patrols that were present at the courthouse throughout Chauvin’s three-week trial in the spring had been removed by Friday, indicating a de-escalation of emotions since the April verdict.
Before the sentencing, the judge agreed with the prosecutors that aggravating circumstances could justify a longer sentence than the recommended 12 1/2 years, including Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd, his abuse of his position of authority as a police officer, and his actions in front of children.
Chauvin’s plea for a fresh trial was refused by the judge before his sentence. The defense contended that the case’s high profile contaminated the jury pool and that the trial should have been held somewhere other than Minneapolis.
A defense motion for a hearing into suspected jury misconduct was also denied by the court. Nelson had accused a juror of being untruthful during jury selection because he didn’t mention his involvement in a march honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. last summer. Prosecutors responded that the juror had expressed his opinions openly.
Since 2005, 11 non-federal police officers, including Chauvin, have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings, according to Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University. The nine people sentenced before Chauvin received sentences ranging from six years and nine months to life in prison, with a median of 15 years.
The Floyd family and Black America experienced something rare with Chauvin’s sentencing: the list of acquittals and mistrials in the few cases when cops accused of brutality or other misbehavior against Black people have gone to trial is larger than the list of sentencing following conviction.
Officers charged in the murders of Philando Castile in suburban Minneapolis and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been acquitted in recent years. In the case of Samuel Dubose’s death in Cincinnati, two mistrials have been proclaimed.
“That’s why the world has watched this trial, because it is a rare occurrence,” said Benjamin Taylor, an Arizona-based civil rights attorney who has represented victims of police abuse. “Everybody knows that this doesn’t happen every day.”
Chauvin has been imprisoned at the state’s maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights since his conviction, where he has been confined in a cell by himself for his own safety and has had his meals delivered to him.
The three other policemen involved in Floyd’s arrest will stand trial in March on state counts of murder and manslaughter. They will also face federal civil rights charges alongside Floyd. That trial has yet to be scheduled.