Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty in April of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on Floyd's neck for over 9 minutes, was sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in federal prison on Friday.
During the sentencing hearing, several victim impact statements were given on behalf of Floyd, including ones from his brothers and his daughter, Gianna. "He will never be able to walk Gianna down the aisle at her wedding... she will never be able to have any personal memories of her father," Philonise Floyd said about his niece, as he fought back tears. He continued: "Chauvin had no regard for human life — George's life. I stand before you today asking you to please help us find closure by giving Chauvin the maximum sentence possible, making sure he does his time consecutively, without the possibilities of parole, probation, or getting out early for good behaviour."
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter by a jury of his peers after two days and 10 hours of deliberation in April.
In May, Chauvin and his attorney filed court documents seeking a new trial and an impeachment of the guilty verdicts, citing “jury misconduct,” although no specific juror or examples of misconduct were mentioned. Hours before Chauvin’s sentence was announced, a Minnesota judge denied the request, saying the defence “failed to prove that Chauvin was denied his right to a fair trial or that the state had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct,” as reported by NBC News.
Given the country’s history of failing to hold police officers who kill unarmed Black and brown people accountable — let alone arrest, charge, and convict them — there were concerns as to whether or not Chauvin would receive a lenient sentence.
Minnesota state guidelines recommend that offenders with no previous criminal record, like Chauvin, convicted on just second degree murder charges, serve a 12.5 year sentence, or a range of 128 to 180 months. The maximum penalty for second-degree murder is 40 years — a sentence legal experts said was very unlikely — and the maximum sentence for his cumulative charges is 75 years.
The prosecution had requested that the judge sentence Chauvin to 30 years, citing “aggravating factors” that would require a harsher sentence than what the state guidelines usually recommend. Hennepin Country District Court Judge Peter Cahill agreed that there were four aggravating factors that occurred when Chauvin murdered Floyd, including Chauvin abusing his position of authority, treating Floyd with “particular cruelty,” and killing Floyd
in the presence of children.
Chauvin’s defence attorney, Eric Nelson, asked that Chauvin not serve any jail time, and instead be placed on probation. Nelson had continued to argue that Chauvin did not intend to kill Floyd, and claimed that he had “support in the community” and had received “thousands of letters” since his arrest.
Chauvin has joined a very short list of officers who have been convicted of killing people while on duty, and is the first white office in Minnesota to be convicted of killing a Black man. According to a Washington Post database, officers kill close to 1,000 people a year, yet just over 1 percent of officers are charged in those cases. Of those charged, fewer than half are convicted.
Chauvin offered some condolences to the Floyd family, and vaguely alluded to "other information" that will come out in the future "that will be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind." Beyond that, Chauvin had little else to say.