June 25, 2021
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in court during a sentencing hearing in Minneapolis, USA, June 25, 2021. Pool via REUTERS – POOL
By FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, and REUTERS
A Minnesota judge sentenced former police officer Derek Chauvin to 22-1/2 years in prison on Friday for the murder of George Floyd during an arrest in May 2020 on a Minneapolis sidewalk, video of which sparked global protests.
“The sentence is not based on emotion or sympathy,” said Judge Peter Cahill, handing down the term at a Minneapolis court after prosecutors sought a 30-year sentence.
He added in a short address that it was also not based on “on public opinion”, but on the law and the facts specific to the case.
A jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty on April 20 of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after a trial that was widely seen as a watershed moment in the history of US policing.
Prosecutors had asked for a 30-year prison sentence, double the upper limit indicated in sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender. The defence had asked for probation.
Video of Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes caused outrage around the world and the largest protest movement seen in the United States in decades.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office wrote that Chauvin’s crime “shocked the conscience of the Nation”.
Floyd’s family describes pain, grief in court
Earlier Friday, Floyd’s family spoke in court of the pain they felt over his murder and asked for the maximum punishment for Chauvin.
“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 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 and I love you.”
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 pleads for mercy
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, took the stand to plead for mercy for son, saying his reputation has been unfairly reduced to that of “an aggressive, heartless and uncaring person” and a racist.
“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 at the courthouse during Chauvin’s three-week trial in the spring were gone Friday, reflecting an easing of tensions since the verdict in April.
Before the sentencing Friday, the judge denied Chauvin’s request for a new trial. Defence attorney Eric Nelson had argued that the intense publicity tainted the jury pool and that the trial should have been moved away from Minneapolis.