Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22½ years for George Floyd’s murder
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to 22½ years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, whose dying gasps under Chauvin’s knee last year led to the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the U.S. in generations.
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday to 22½ years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, whose dying gasps under Chauvin’s knee last year led to the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the U.S. in generations.
The punishment — which fell short of the 30 years that prosecutors had requested — came after Chauvin broke his more than yearlong silence in court to offer condolences to the Floyd family and say he hopes more information coming out later would give them “some peace of mind.”
With good behavior, Chauvin, 45, could be paroled after serving two-thirds of his sentence, or 15 years.
In imposing the punishment, Judge Peter Cahill went beyond the 12½-year sentence prescribed under state guidelines, citing Chauvin’s “abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty” shown to Floyd.
Chauvin was immediately led back to prison. As with the verdicts in April, he showed little emotion when the judge pronounced the sentence. His eyes moved rapidly around the courtroom, his COVID-19 mask obscuring much of his face.
George Floyd died in police custody on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis. His death led to the trial and conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin.
The fired white officer was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for up to 9½ minutes as the 46-year-old Black man gasped that he couldn’t breathe and went limp on May 25, 2020.
Bystander video of Floyd’s arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store prompted protests around the world and led to scattered violence in Minneapolis and beyond.
On Friday, Chauvin, who did not testify at his trial, removed his mask and turned toward the Floyd family, speaking only briefly because of what he called “some additional legal matters at hand” — an apparent reference to the federal civil rights trial he still faces.
“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 said, without elaborating.
In asking that Chauvin be given probation, defense attorney Eric Nelson called Floyd’s death “tragic” and said that Chauvin’s “brain is littered with what-ifs” from that day: “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 took the stand and expressed their sorrow about his death. They asked for the maximum penalty.
“We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist. We’ve been through that already,” said a tearful Terrence Floyd, one of George Floyd’s brothers.
Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams said: “Our family is forever broken.” And Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a video played in court, said that if she could say something to her father now, it would be: “I miss you and I love him.”
Prosecutor Matthew Frank asked the judge to exceed sentencing guidelines and give Chauvin 30 years in prison, saying “‘tortured’ is the right word” for what the officer did to 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 said.
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, appeared in court to plead for mercy for her son, saying his reputation had been unfairly reduced to that of “an aggressive, heartless and uncaring person” and a racist.
Gianna Floyd’s video interview was played in court Friday during the sentencing hearing for former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin.
“I can tell you that is far from the truth,” she told the judge. “I want this court to know that none of these things are true and that my son is a good man.” She added: “Derek, I want you to know I have always believed in your innocence, and I will never waver from that.”
“I will be here for you when you come home,” she said.
The concrete barricades, razor wire and National Guard patrols around the courthouse during Chauvin’s three-week trial in the spring were gone Friday, reflecting an easing of tensions since April’s verdict.
Ahead of the sentencing, the judge agreed with prosecutors that there were aggravating circumstances that could justify a heavier punishment than the recommended 12½ years — among them, that Chauvin treated Floyd with particular cruelty, abused his position of authority as a police officer, and did so in front of children.
Before the sentencing, the judge denied Chauvin’s request for a new trial. The defense had argued that intense publicity tainted the jury pool and that the trial should have been moved away from Minneapolis.
The judge also rejected a defense request for a hearing into possible juror misconduct. Nelson had accused a juror of not being candid during jury selection because he didn’t mention his participation in a march last summer to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Prosecutors countered that the juror had been open about his views.
Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, said 11 nonfederal law officers, including Chauvin, have been convicted of murder for on-duty deaths since 2005. The penalties for the nine who were sentenced before Chauvin ranged from six years and nine months to life behind bars, with 15 years as the median sentence.
With Chauvin’s sentencing, the Floyd family and Black Americans witnessed something of a rarity: In the small number of instances in which officers accused of brutality or other misconduct against Black people have gone to trial, the list of acquittals and mistrials is longer than the list of sentencings after conviction.
In recent years, the acquittals have included officers tried in the deaths of Philando Castile in suburban Minneapolis and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla. Two mistrials were declared over the death of Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati.
“That’s why the world has watched this trial, because it is a rare occurrence,” said Arizona-based civil rights attorney Benjamin Taylor, who has represented victims of police brutality. “Everybody knows that this doesn’t happen every day.”
Chauvin has been held since his conviction at the state’s maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights, where he has been kept in a cell by himself, even for meals, for his own protection.
The three other officers involved in Floyd’s death are scheduled for trial next March on state charges of aiding and abetting his murder and manslaughter. They will also stand trial with Chauvin on the federal civil rights charges. No date has been set for that trial.
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