Saying that Derek Chauvin was “particularly cruel” for slowly killing George Floyd, the Minneapolis judge who presided over Chauvin’s murder trial on Wednesday announced a move that could dramatically increase the time the former police officer will spend behind bars.
In his six-page opinion, Judge Peter A. Cahill said prosecutors proved Chauvin abused his position of authority and trust, treated Floyd with particular cruelty, and committed his crime in the presence of children and with the active participation of at least three other people.
The announcement of these factors, known as aggravating factors, allows Cahill to sentence Chauvin to more than 15 years in prison, the longest sentence for second degree murder. [quando o homicídio não é intencional, mas o réu mata alguém enquanto comete intencionalmente outro crime] provided for by the Minnesota sentencing guidelines. State statutes allow the judge to sentence Chauvin to a maximum of 40 years in prison, but legal experts say his sentence is very unlikely to go beyond 30 years.
Cahill also determined that prosecutors had failed to prove a fifth aggravating factor – that Floyd would be particularly vulnerable because he was overwhelmed and under the influence of drugs. But, according to law professor Ted Sampsell-Jones of the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, the judge only had to determine the presence of an aggravating factor before he could sentence Chauvin to a higher sentence. at 15.
George Floyd’s death caught the world’s attention when a video surfaced showing Chauvin with his knee on his neck for over nine minutes, while Floyd repeatedly moaned saying he couldn’t breathe .
“It was particularly cruel to kill George Floyd slowly, preventing him from breathing, when Floyd had already made it clear that he was having trouble breathing,” Cahill wrote.
He added that Floyd “was pleading for his life and visibly terrified of dying” and that Cahill “remained indifferent to Floyd’s pleas.”
The judge wrote in his opinion that police officers have a duty to treat those they arrest with respect, to use only reasonable levels of force and to provide medical assistance when needed. Chauvin, who was fired shortly after Floyd’s death, failed to do all three of these things.
Cahill pointed out that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd for 4.5 minutes after Floyd went limp. He also noted that Chauvin ignored his colleagues when they said Floyd, who was handcuffed and lying face down on a street corner in Minneapolis, was showing no signs of a pulse and that they should turn him on his side. .
It was “a heinous abuse of the power to subdue and contain,” Cahill wrote.
Jurors also found Chauvin guilty of third degree murder [quando o réu mata alguém ao tomar uma atitude perigosa sem levar em consideração o risco à vida humana] and second degree manslaughter [quando o réu assume o risco de matar alguém ao tomar uma atitude imprudente], but Chauvin will only be convicted on the most serious charge of second degree murder. His conviction is expected to be announced in June.
Without any aggravating factors, defendants convicted of the same crimes typically receive sentences of 12.5 years, Sampsell-Jones said.
National sentencing guidelines were adopted to avoid disparities that arose when judges were largely free to decide the length of prison sentences. According to a concept in Minnesota case law known as the Evans Rule, where there are aggravating factors, judges can double the maximum sentence for a felony. The maximum predicted in Chauvin’s case being 15 years, this means that Cahill will be able to sentence him up to 30 years in prison.
But, according to Sampsell-Jones, subsequent rulings by the state’s Supreme Court ruled that in extremely rare circumstances judges can go beyond Evans’ rule.
“The fact that Cahill determined the presence of multiple factors could make it a ‘one in a million’ case that justifies violating Evans’ Rule,” the law professor said, noting that he would be surprised if that was happening because Cahill “usually pronounces moderate sentences”.
Criminal defense attorney AL Brown said it was no surprise that Cahill identified aggravating factors given the overwhelming evidence. But, he said, the judge is not obligated to increase an accused’s sentence because of these factors, which is why he will wait to assess the importance of the aggravating factors when the sentence is handed down. .
“I’m not going to throw the party off because Judge Cahill paid attention to the obvious,” he said. “Let’s see what he does with it.”