“Most of it’s going to be in writing, 22-page memorandum – to emphasize the fact that determining the appropriate sentence in any case and in this case is a legal analysis,” he said. “It’s applying the rule of law to the facts of an individual and specific case. As opposed to trying to be profound here on the record, I prefer you read the legal analysis.”
He added that the sentence was not motivated by “public opinion, emotion or sympathy” and granted Chauvin credit for 199 days in time already served.
“I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family,” Cahill said. “You have our sympathies, and I acknowledge and hear the pain that you are feeling. I acknowledge the pain not only of those in this courtroom, but the Floyd family outside this courtroom and other members of the community.”
The judge had been expected to hand down a sentence between 20 and 25 years, with a maximum of 40 and an average sentence for similar crimes around 12.5. Floyd’s brothers asked the court for the maximum punishment of 40 years, and prosecutors, as expected, asked for 30.
Before the sentencing, Floyd’s brothers read impact statements, lawyers for both sides delivered remarks, and Chauvin, speaking only briefly, expressed condolences to the Floyd family.
“On May 25, 2020, my brother was murdered, everyone knows, by Derek Chauvin.,” said Terrence Floyd, one of the victim’s brothers, delivering an emotional impact statement to the court. “The facts of this case were proven beyond a reasonable doubt and three guilty verdicts have been rendered.”
“I wanted to know from the man himself, why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck? Why, when you knew that he posed no threat anymore, he was handcuffed, why didn’t you at least get up. Why’d you stay there?”
Chauvin, with a buzzed head and wearing a gray suit, looked on, unmoving, face concealed in part behind a blue coronavirus mask. Floyd held back tears and asked the judge to impose the maximum penalty.
Chauvin’s actions, which were recorded on video that circulated widely online, prompted an explosion of social justice and anti-police brutality protests that lasted for months. He could be seen pressing his knee to the neck of Floyd, who was laying prone and being restrained by other officers, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as onlookers pleaded for him to ease up and Floyd begged for his life.
Floyd, who was suspected of passing a fake $20 bill at a nearby corner store, eventually went limp. After a month-long trial, a jury convicted him of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in April.
Another brother, Philonise Floyd, also delivered an impact statement. He said the video of his brother’s death gave him nightmares. “I have had to sit through each day of officer Derek Chauvin’s trial and watch the video of George dying for hours, over and over again,” he said. “For an entire year, I had to relive George being tortured to death.”
Prosecutor Matt Frank noted four aggravating factors the court had previously found that could be used to increase Chauvin’s sentence under state guidelines. They included the fact that there were children present to witness the incident.
“One of the children even said, ‘We’ve gotta call the police on the police,’” he said. “How do you even process that as a 9-year-old?” The others included an abuse of authority, a lack of respect for the suspect’s dignity and a failure to provide immediate medical care when Floyd stopped breathing. “We think they justify a greatly increased sentence,” he said. “This is not a typical second-degree murder.”
Carolyn Pawlenty, Chauvin’s mother, also addressed the court, speaking on behalf of the family. “It has been difficult for me to read and hear what the media, public and prosecution team believe Derek to be an aggressive, heartless and uncaring person,” she said. “I can tell you that is far from the truth. My son’s identity has also been reduced to that of a racist. I want this court to know that none of these things are true, and that my son is a good man.”
She turned to her son, who at times looked down during her remarks, and told him the two proudest moments in her life were his birth and his graduation from the police academy.
“Derek I want you to know I have always believed in your innocence, and I will never waiver from that,” she said. “I have read numerous letters from people around the world that also believe in your innocence. “
Defense attorney Eric Nelson countered Frank’s aggravating factors with a list of mitigating ones. Chauvin has received multiple awards for saving lives and had been honored for his valor, Nelson said. He was also a U.S. Army veteran with a family of his own and had no criminal record.
“What he liked to do was help people,” Nelson said. “He’s not coming into this as a career criminal with six points, five points, four points, he’s coming into this never having violated the law because he lived an honorable life.”
Chauvin, during his chance to address the court, said he could only speak briefly due to pending federal litigation but he offered his condolences to the Floyd family. Experts had predicted a sentence of 20 to 25 years in prison, but he faced a maximum of 40. The average sentence for a first-time offender on the second-degree murder charge is 12-and-a-half years in prison. With good behavior, a prisoner could get parole after serving about two-thirds of a sentence.
Before the sentencing, Cahill denied Chauvin’s request for a new trial. Defense attorney Eric Nelson had argued that the intense publicity tainted the jury pool and that the trial should have been moved away from Minneapolis.
The judge also rejected a defense request for a hearing into possible juror misconduct. Nelson had accused a juror of not being candid during jury selection because he didn’t mention his participation in a march last summer to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Prosecutors countered the juror had been open about his views.
Chauvin’s defense team is expected to appeal. ✪