Derek Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years in Prison for Murder of George Floyd
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose 2020 death caught on viral video sparked the nation's largest civil rights protests in decades along with continued conversation about police brutality and racial justice.
Judge Peter A. Cahill said the length of the sentence, which exceeded the state's sentencing guidelines which exceeded the state's sentencing guidelines that recommended 12.5 years, owed to Chauvin's "abuse of a position of trust and authority, and also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd." In a written sentencing memo, Cahill said Chauvin "treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings."
Chauvin, 45, who was convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in April after pinning Floyd to the ground with a knee to his neck for about nine minutes, had hoped for a sentence of probation and time served, as sought by his attorney.
For the most serious second-degree murder conviction, he faced up to 40 years in prison. But for first-time offenders such as Chauvin with no criminal history, Minnesota state sentencing guidelines recommend a penalty of 12-and-a-half years.
Prosecutors had asked Cahill to sentence Chauvin to 30 years, writing in a court filing that while such a sentence would be "double the upper limit of the presumptive range," it "would properly account for the profound impact of defendant's conduct on the victim, the victim's family, and the community."
"Defendant brutally murdered Mr. Floyd, abusing the authority conferred by his badge," the prosecution's filing reads. "His actions traumatized Mr. Floyd's family, the bystanders who watched Mr. Floyd die, and the community. And his conduct shocked the nation's conscience."
Hours before Chauvin was sentenced, Cahill denied Chauvin's request for a new trial, KARE11 reports.
Prior to the sentencing, Cahill said the sentence would not be determined by emotion or public perception.
"But at the same time," he said, "I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all of the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family."
Floyd, 46, was killed May 25, 2020, during his detention in Minneapolis for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner convenience store. The verdict followed a prosecution that replayed over and over what millions around the world had seen, propelling them into the streets in protest: the video of Chauvin, his hands in his pockets and his sunglasses perched atop his head, with Floyd underneath him crying out for his dead mother and repeatedly gasping, "I can't breathe."
President Joe Biden called Chauvin's conviction "a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America," and met with members of Floyd's family at the White House after the verdict. The response to Floyd's death also led Congress to consider legislation bearing Floyd's name that would ban police chokeholds in certain cases and create a national registry of police misconduct.
Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his three-week trial that Chauvin was following his police training and protocol in his restraint of Floyd. He argued that it was not pressure applied by Chauvin to Floyd's neck that led to Floyd's death, but rather Floyd's history of underlying health conditions and drug use. He further alleged that a crowd of onlookers who appeared to grow angry presented a threat to Chauvin, guiding his actions.
After a trial that riveted the nation unlike any other in recent memory, 12 jurors -- six white, four Black, and two who identified themselves as mixed race -- voted unanimously to convict him of all charges.
Chauvin was fired a day after the killing. Three other now-former officers on the scene with Chauvin -- J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao -- were all charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and are scheduled to be tried next year. All have pleaded not guilty.
Floyd's 7-year-old daughter says 'I miss him and I love him'
Prior to the sentencing for Chauvin, who is still is under investigation for federal charges, said, "I am not able to give a full statement at this time, but very briefly, I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There is going to be some other information in the future that will be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind."
His mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, also addressed the court, saying her son "has played over and over in his head the events of that day, I have seen the toll it has taken on him. I believe a lengthy sentence will not serve Derek well. When you sentence my son, you will also be sentencing me."
In victim impact statements, Floyd's family members urged Cahill to impose the maximum penalty allowable by law.
Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, said, "My family and I have been given a life sentence. We will never be able to get George back."
"Chauvin had no regard for human life: George's life," he added. "Please help us find closure by giving Chauvin the maximum sentence."
Floyd's brother Terrence addressed Chauvin, asking, "Why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother's neck? When you knew that he posed no threat any more, and he was handcuffed, why didn't you at least get up?"
His cousin, Brandon Williams said, "George Floyd's murder, this trial and everything in between has been tragically devastating. Our family is forever broken."
Floyd's 7-year-old daughter Gianna Floyd said she asks "about my daddy every day." She said he helped her brush her teeth every night, but said "mean people did something to him."
"I miss him and I love him," Gianna said.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.