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Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday to 22 and a half years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, more than one year after Floyd’s death sparked an international movement against police brutality.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over Chauvin’s murder trial, handed down a sentence of 270 months for charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death. Chauvin received a credit of 199 days served in prison. A jury convicted him of the charges on April 20.
“What the sentence is not based on is emotion or sympathy,” Cahill said. “But at the same time, I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family. I’m not going to attempt to be profound or clever because it’s not the appropriate time. I’m not basing my sentence on public opinion. I’m not basing it on any attempt to send any messages.”
Chauvin faced significant prison time for Floyd’s death. The most serious offense, second-degree murder, carries a penalty of up to 40 years in prison, according to Minnesota law. The other charges, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, can result in imprisonment of up to 25 and 10 years, respectively. Prosecutors wanted 30 years, while Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, asked for probation and time served. Floyd’s family wanted the maximum sentence.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the prosecution of Chauvin, said the sentence is “one of the longest a former police officer has ever received for an unlawful use of deadly force."
“It’s difficult to see anybody lose their freedom,” Ellison said after the sentencing. “But seeing someone lose their life through torture [for] over nine and a half minutes is incomparably worse."
In a statement issued after the sentencing, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Floyd's family, called the sentence "historic" and said it "brings the Floyd family and our nation one step closer to healing by delivering closure and accountability."
"For once, a police officer who wrongly took the life of a Black man was held to account. While this shouldn’t be exceptional, tragically it is. Day after day, year after year, police kill Black people without consequence. But today, with Chauvin’s sentence, we take a significant step forward — something that was unimaginable a very short time ago."
The Rev. Al Sharpton acknowledged that the sentence "is the longest we've seen," but said it doesn't quite amount to justice.
"Because George Floyd is in a grave tonight, even though Chauvin will be in jail," he said during a news conference. "So let us not feel that we're here to celebrate, because justice would have been George Floyd never having been killed. Justice would have been the maximum. We got more than we thought only because we had been disappointed so many times before. Twenty-two and a half years is longer than we've ever gotten but shorter than what we should have gotten."
Brandon Williams, Floyd's nephew, said at the news conference that the sentence is too light. “I feel that he should have received a life sentence,” Williams said.
Chauvin now has 60 days to appeal his sentence with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. He can also appeal Cahill’s Friday ruling that denied his bid for a new trial.
Chauvin was found guilty of murdering Floyd during an arrest outside the Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis. Video taken by a bystander, showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck — depriving him of oxygen — played a key role in helping the jury decide to convict the former officer.
The sentence came after members of Floyd’s family read aloud victim impact statements at Friday's hearing. They included Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, and his brother Terrence.
“I wanted to know from the man himself, why,” Terrence Floyd, who paused at times to gather himself, told the court. “What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck?”
Gianna Floyd said she loves and misses her father and hoped to play with him again.
“We used to have dinner meals every single night before we went to bed,” she said. “My daddy used to help me brush my teeth.”
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, spoke in support of her son, telling the court that he is not the person he’s been portrayed as since Floyd’s death.
“My son’s identity has been reduced to that [of a] racist,” she said. “I want the court to know that none of these things are true. And that my son is a good man.”
Speaking on behalf of his client, Nelson told the court that Chauvin's "brain is littered with what-ifs."
"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," Nelson said.
Chauvin declined to give a statement at the hearing, but he did offer his condolences to the Floyd family. “There's going to be some other information in the future that will be of interest, and I hope it will give you some peace of mind,” he said.
His sentencing may mark the end of the state’s case against him, but his three co-defendants are set to stand trial next March on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Additionally, all four former officers were indicted in May by a federal grand jury on charges that they deprived Floyd of his rights under the law during his arrest.
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