Prosecutors want a 30-year sentence for the former Minneapolis police officer, and the defense has asked for a lesser sentence or probation.
MINNEAPOLIS — More than two months after the world watched the trial of Derek Chauvin, all eyes will be back on Minneapolis as he receives his sentence for the murder of George Floyd.
The former Minneapolis police officer will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Friday for the May 2020 death that was captured on video and reverberated across the globe, sparking mass protests of racism and police brutality. Bystander footage shot by teenager Darnella Frazier showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck at the intersection of 38th and Chicago for more than nine minutes while Floyd called out, “I can’t breathe.” The jury saw that video, along with many other angles of Floyd’s arrest and detainment by Chauvin and three other former officers, throughout the weeks-long trial. They took less than 10 hours to reach a verdict.
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On April 20, that jury found Chauvin guilty on all three counts – second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder – in Floyd’s death, making him the first white police officer to be found guilty of murdering a Black man in Minnesota.
Because the three charges are for the same “course of conduct,” or related to the same crime, the sentence for the most serious count will determine how long Chauvin stays in prison. That crime is second-degree unintentional murder, and under Minnesota sentencing guidelines the presumptive sentence is 12 and a half years for a person without a criminal record. However, the statute allows for an upward departure if there are “aggravating factors.”
Prosecutors argued there were five specific aggravating factors, and on May 12, Judge Peter Cahill agreed with the state on four of them:
Cahill ruled that one aggravating factor was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt: that Floyd was particularly vulnerable during the detainment.
Friday morning ahead of the sentencing, Cahill denied Chauvin’s requests for a new trial, and for a “Schwartz hearing” into potential juror misconduct. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, can still appeal those rulings.
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Because of the aggravating factors, Cahill can sentence Chauvin to a statutory maximum of 40 years, but experts say that’s highly unlikely because prosecutors have only asked for a 30-year sentence. Legal experts say 30 years is likely the maximum, and Cahill could sentence Chauvin to less than that. The defense asked for a lesser sentence or probation.
In Minnesota, typically two-thirds of a sentence is served in prison and the rest on probation.
State sentencing guidelines recommend a maximum of 15 years for a person with no criminal history for second-degree murder. Prosecutors are generally hesitant to ask for more than double that when they request an upward departure, due to the possibility of an appeal if the sentence is much heavier than comparable cases.
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The sentencing is scheduled for Friday at 1:30 p.m. in Minneapolis, at the Hennepin County Government Center. The government center will be closed to the public for the day in order to keep the location secure, according to the county.
Although Chauvin invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not testify at his own trial, he could potentially choose to speak at the sentencing hearing. The family and loved ones of George Floyd will also have an opportunity to deliver victim impact statements if they so choose. A source familiar with the case told KARE 11 that four family members will speak.
This week Cahill granted a request for Chauvin to be sentenced in civilian clothes, which is common at criminal sentencing hearings.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton plan to hold a news conference outside the Hennepin County Courthouse after the sentencing.
Three other former officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are all charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Their joint trial is scheduled for March 2022.
In addition to the state charges, in May all four officers were also indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Conviction on a federal civil rights charge is punishable by up to life in prison or even the death penalty, but those stiff sentences are extremely rare and federal sentencing guidelines rely on complicated formulas that indicate the officers would get much less if convicted.
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