A judge has sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to a prison sentence of 22.5 years for the 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose death sparked global protests against police brutality and racism.
“I’m not basing my sentence on public opinion,” said Judge Cahill. “I’m not basing it on any attempt to send any messages. The job of a trial court judge is to apply the law to specific facts and deal with individual cases.”
In April, a jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. His sentencing was based on the most severe charge, which, according to Minnesota state guidelines, would have landed Chauvin a 12 and a half year sentence. However, Judge Peter Cahill believed that aggravating factors—the presence of children, Chauvin’s position as an officer—warrants a harsher sentence.
The sentence is somewhat lighter than the 30-year sentence prosecutor Matthew Frank hoped for, however. “This is not a typical second-degree murder,” he said in court on Friday. “This is egregious... this is the time for our criminal justice to say, ‘we hear you.’”
During victim impact statements from Floyd’s family, including his young daughter, Gianna, Chauvin appeared, if anything, bemused. He only showed a flicker of emotion when his own mother spoke before the court, insisting that Chauvin was a “good man” with a “big heart” and lamenting the public’s negative view of him. Both she and Chauvin’s defense attorney, Mike Nelson, emphasized how much support Chauvin has received, however. The lack of remorse was striking.
Chauvin briefly spoke, offering condolences to the Floyd family but did not apologize for his actions. He noted that what he can say is limited due to pending federal criminal charges related to the Floyd case.
On May 25, 2020, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes during an arrest, all while Floyd was handcuffed and complained that he couldn’t breathe. Police forbade spectators from intervening to help, and Floyd died at the scene. The incident was filmed by a teenage girl, Darnella Frazier, who was headed to a corner store with her cousin at the time. It was the same corner store where Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill minutes prior. Floyd’s alleged use of conterfeit money was never confirmed.
Three other officers present at the scene, who have since been fired, have yet to be tried in court.
The incident prompted uprisings and protests in Minneapolis and across the country, leading to the largest civil rights movement in American history. There were also protests outside of the U.S.—from the United Kingdom and France to Brazil and South Korea—further emphasizing the utter magnitude of Floyd’s gruesome death.
Floyd’s family and legal team, meanwhile, are pushing for federal police reform bills with mixed results.
Hours before sentencing, Nelson requested a new trial, accusing the court of “abusing its discretion” and “denied Chauvin the right to a fair trial.” Judge Cahill denied the request.
Chauvin also faces a federal indictment stemming from a 2017 incident in which he allegedly used a neck restraint on a 14-year-old and beat the teen in the head with a flashlight.