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25 Jun, 2021 19:57

Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 YEARS in prison over murder of George Floyd

Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 YEARS in prison over murder of George Floyd

Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted in April on three charges related to the murder of 46-year-old black man George Floyd, has been sentenced to 22.5 years in prison, minus time served.

Pushing for the harshest possible sentence on Friday afternoon, prosecutor Matthew Frank told the Minneapolis court that this was “not the typical second degree unintentional murder.” Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson urged that justice should not be served according to “public opinion.”

In accordance with Minnesota law, Chauvin was sentenced only on the most serious of his crimes, rather than on all three related to the same incident.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill acknowledged the suffering felt not only by Floyd himself, but on the families of both men and the wider Hennepin County. He insisted he did not base his sentence on public opinion, sympathy, or the ongoing eruptions of protesters in an attempt to send any “message.”

The job of a trial court judge is to apply the law to specific facts and to deal with individual cases.

The court heard victim impact statements from members of Floyd's family, including his brother Terrence Floyd who addressed Chauvin directly, asking: “What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck?” Floyd's seven-year-old daughter Gianna appeared by video.

The court also heard from Chauvin's mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, who said it was difficult for her to hear and read how the media, public and prosecution had portrayed her son. She described him as a “good man,” saying he had dedicated his life to the police department and urged a lighter sentence.

Chauvin stood to offer “condolences” to the Floyd family, but, citing other legal matters, did not make a full statement.

The sentencing comes just two months after a jury declared him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter – all three charges stemming from the infamous encounter in which Chauvin knelt with his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, horrifying onlookers. Chauvin has remained in a maximum security prison since his conviction.

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The altercation was captured on cellphone footage and triggered a summer of widespread conflict between cops, anti-police-brutality protesters, opportunistic looters, and semi-professional troublemakers on both sides. Agitators even set up ‘autonomous zones’ in cities like Seattle, while other cities saw outbreaks of violence come and go. 

The former officer, who was expelled from the force one day after Floyd’s murder, would typically face a sentence of about 12 and a half years in prison for such a crime, given he is a first-time offender. Prosecutors in the case requested a longer sentence, however, due to aggravating factors, including abuse of authority as an officer and the fact that children were present to witness the crime.

One of those present was then-17-year-old Darnella Frazier, who took out her phone to film the encounter – footage which became crucial for prosecutors making their case against the ex-cop.

Ruling on the aggravating factors in May, Cahill said Chauvin treated Floyd with “particular cruelty” by failing to deliver medical assistance. Noting the “prolonged nature of the asphyxiation,” he pointed out that Floyd had pleaded that he couldn’t breathe at least 27 times during the ordeal.

Nelson argued the state was unable to prove those aggravating factors existed at the time of Floyd’s death and cited “jury misconduct,” among other things, as a reason not to grant them.

Earlier on Friday, Cahill denied motions by Nelson for a new trial and hearings to examine the claim of juror misconduct. 

Reacting to the sentencing, lawyer for the Floyd family, Ben Crump, tweeted that the “historic” sentence brings the nation  “one step closer to healing.”

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