MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin learns his sentence Today for murder in George Floyd’ s death, closing a chapter in a case that sparked global outrage and a reckoning on racial disparities in America.
Chauvin, 45, faces decades in prison, with several legal experts predicting a sentence of 20 to 25 years. Though Chauvin is widely expected to appeal, he also still faces trial on federal civil rights charges, along with three other fired officers who have yet to have their state trials.
The concrete barricades, razor wire and National Guard patrols that shrouded the county courthouse for Chauvin’s three-week trial are gone, and so is most of the tension in the city as it awaited a verdict in April. Still, there’s a recognition that Chauvin’s sentencing will be another major step forward for a city that has been on edge since Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.
“Between the incident, the video, the riots, the trial — this is the pinnacle of it,” Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney who has closely followed Chauvin’s case, said. “The verdict was huge too, but this is where the justice comes down.”
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe and went limp. Bystander video of Floyd’s arrest for suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill prompted protests around the world and a nationwide reckoning on race and police brutality.
Before the sentencing hearing Friday, Judge Peter Cahill denied Chauvin’s request for a new trial, saying defense attorney Eric Nelson has not shown that the court abused its discretion or that there was any prosecutorial misconduct that would have deprived Chauvin of his right to a fair trial. Nelson argued that intense publicity around Floyd’s death tainted the jury pool and that the trial should have been moved away from Minneapolis.
Under Minnesota statutes, Chauvin will be sentenced only on the most serious charge, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years. But case law dictates that a 30-year sentence would be the practical maximum sentence Cahill could impose without risk of being overturned on appeal.
Prosecutors asked for 30 years, saying Chauvin’s actions were egregious and “shocked the nation’s conscience.” Nelson requested probation, saying Chauvin was the product of a “broken” system and “believed he was doing his job.”
Chauvin and the three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are awaiting trial in federal court on charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights. No trial date has been set.
The three other officers are also scheduled for trial in March on state charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.