Former police officer Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd by pinching the victim’s neck with his knee for more than nine minutes last May, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison on Friday (25).
Chauvin, 45, had been held in a Minnesota state penitentiary since mid-April when he was convicted of the death of the former black security guard. He was also arrested last year, just days after the crime, but left prison after posting $ 1 million bail.
The 22-and-a-half-year sentence refers to the three counts of which the former officer was convicted: second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
“The sentence is not based on emotion or public opinion. But I want to highlight the pain the Floyd family is feeling,” Judge Peter Cahill said on handing down the sentence.
During the hearing, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank confirmed that Chauvin used disproportionate force against a man claiming his life. While suffocating, Floyd repeated the phrase “I can’t breathe”. “Floyd was treated with cruelty. We have all seen it,” the prosecutor said.
He added that children and young people aged 9 to 17 witnessed the violence, which aggravates the case.
Defense lawyer Eric Nelson argued that the conviction came amid a moment of social polarization and that justice should not be tainted by public opinion. “My sincere hope is that when the dust settles, the impact on the community will bring a policy debate and leave a positive effect in Minneapolis and the United States.”
Floyd’s family members were also heard. Brandon Williams said his uncle’s death demonstrated a complete lack of respect for human life. “The sudden murder traumatized us forever. You can see us cry, but the extent of our pain and trauma will never be seen with the naked eye.”
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, meanwhile, in one of her rare public statements, claimed that her son had been a dedicated police officer for 19 years. “Derek is calm and selfless. He always put others in front of him. The public will never know how sweet he is, but our family does.
Chauvin had to refuse to speak. After being called, the ex-cop only said that he would like to share his feelings with Floyd’s family and that he hoped they would find peace soon.
For cases like the former agent, where the accused has no criminal record, state law recommends 12.5 years in prison for each count of murder and approximately 4 years for manslaughter.
State prosecutors had requested 30 years’ imprisonment for Chauvin, arguing that he “had committed a brutal murder, traumatized the victim’s family and shocked the conscience of the nation.” However, it was expected that Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, responsible for determining the sentence, would hand down a significantly higher sentence.
In May, the magistrate retained four aggravating factors presented by the prosecution to justify the increase in the sentence: 1) Chauvin abused a position of trust and authority, since he was a police officer; 2) the former officer treated Floyd with particular cruelty; 3) the children were present at the time of the assault; 4) the crime was committed in a group, with the participation of three other officers.
A few hours before the announcement of the sentence, Judge Cahill always rejected a defense request to schedule a new trial. Attorney Eric Nelson, known in Minneapolis for representing police officers accused of misconduct, argued that the prosecution intimidated witnesses and that extensive media coverage would have compromised a fair trial of his client’s case.
The magistrate, in turn, replied that the accused had failed to demonstrate that the court had abused or erred in a way that deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial.
Chauvin’s conviction a year and a month after Floyd’s death is a conquest of the wave of anti-racist protests that have taken to the streets of the United States and other countries and also sets an important precedent for Americans, as the country is known for its impunity. police violence.
But the measure is also accompanied by episodes that recall the challenges facing the United States in the fight against structural racism. This Thursday, on the eve of the hearing that determined Chauvin’s sentence, the name of a far-right group was spray-painted on two statues erected in honor of George Floyd in New York and New Jersey.
The death of the former security guard sparked a wave of protests that spread to dozens of American cities and other parts of the world. Floyd has been recalled in acts in Africa, Asia, Europe and also Brazil. The case has become a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The other three former officers accused of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder are set to stand trial in 2022.