Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin on Friday was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for second-degree murder months after he was convicted in the death of George Floyd, coming hours after a judge denied his request for a new trial.
The sentence was handed down by Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill, who said in the hearing that he didn’t “base [his] sentence on public opinion” or to “send any messages.” Cahill said that he handed down the sentence due to the “particular cruelty” Chauvin exhibited during Floyd’s death.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of Floyd last year. The incident triggered left-wing demonstrations, riots, and violence across the country as well as calls to “defund the police,” which some critics have said has led to a significant rise in crime across major U.S. metropolitan areas in recent months. Minneapolis was particularly hit hard by weeks of riots, arson attacks, looting, and violence in the wake of Floyd’s death, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage.
Chauvin, who didn’t testify during his trial, only spoke briefly in court on Friday, and gave his “condolences to the Floyd family.”
Prosecutors argued during the hearing that Chauvin deserved a heavier sentence because he didn’t render aid to Floyd during the arrest. “He was dismissive to [the] duty of care” that officers are supposed to adhere to, one prosecutor said.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, told the court that if he received a heavy sentence, it would create a negative public impact and noted that he’s received thousands of emails supporting Chauvin. Nelson further added that Chauvin’s Minneapolis police colleagues had a positive opinion of him, saying he was “decorated for valor,” was “proud to be a Minneapolis police officer,” and served in the U.S. Army.
Earlier on Friday, Cahill denied Chauvin’s motion for a new trial, claiming he failed to demonstrate that Minnesota engaged in prosecutorial misconduct and denied that he was able to establish a case of juror misconduct. Chauvin can file an appeal for a new trial with the Minnesota Court of Appeals after 90 days from the imposition of his sentence.
Nelson further claimed that a juror wasn’t candid during the jury selection because he didn’t mention his participation in a Black Lives Matter-affiliated march to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Prosecutors disputed Nelson’s argument and said the juror was open about his viewpoints.
Prosecutors had sought 30 years in prison, while Chauvin’s lawyers argued for probation.
“Mr. Chauvin asks the Court to look beyond its findings, to his background, his lack of criminal history, his amenability to probation, to the unusual facts of this case, and to his being a product of a ‘broken’ system,” Nelson wrote in a court filing. “Mr. Chauvin’s offense is best described as an error made in good faith reliance his own experience as a police officer and the training he had received—not intentional commission of an illegal act.”
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said in a sentencing memo that 30 years behind bars is “twice the upper end of the presumptive sentencing range,” adding that it “would properly account for the profound impact of Defendant’s conduct on the victim, the victim’s family, and the community.”
Minnesota sentencing guideline’s called for 12 1/2 years due to Chauvin’s lack of a criminal record, but Cahill agreed with prosecutors that there were alleged aggravating circumstances that could justify a harsher penalty. Prosecutors argued that Chauvin treated Floyd with particular cruelty, abused his position of authority as a police officer, and did so in front of children.
With good behavior, Chauvin could be released on parole after serving approximately two-thirds of his sentence.
During the sentencing hearing, family members of Floyd issued victim impact statements. That included Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter Gianna, who told the court about what she would say if he were still alive: “I miss you and I love him.”
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, also attended the hearing and delivered a victim impact statement in favor of a lighter sentence.
Pawlenty said that the allegations foisted in the mainstream media that Chauvin is a racist or a heartless individual are false, saying the former officer doesn’t deserve a heavy prison term.
“None of these things are true,” she said of the allegations. “My son is a good man.”