Prosecutors seek higher sentence for Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s murder case

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Former police officer Derek Chauvin will be sentenced in June for George Floyd’s murder. Prosecutors are asking a judge to give Chauvin a more severe penalty than called for in state guidelines.

The prosecutors argued in court documents filed on Friday 30 April that Floyd was particularly vulnerable. And that Chauvin abused his authority as a police officer.

Defence lawyer Eric Nelson is opposing a tougher sentence. He’s saying the state failed to prove those aggravating factors, among others, existed when Chauvin arrested Floyd on 25 May.

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last week of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin had pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for 9-1/2 minutes as the Black man said he could not breathe and went motionless.

Police Accountability Wandering Cops
Former police officer Derek Chauvin is awaiting sentence (Minnesota Department of Corrections/AP)

Minnesota statutes

Although Chauvin was found guilty of three counts, under Minnesota statutes he will only be sentenced on the most serious one — second-degree murder. While that count carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, experts say he won’t receive that a term that lengthy.

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Prosecutors didn’t specify how much time they would seek for Chauvin.

Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, the presumptive sentence for second-degree unintentional murder for someone with no criminal record like Chauvin would be 12-1/2 years.

Judges can sentence a person to as little as 10 years and eight months or as much as 15 years and still be within the advisory guideline range.

To go above that, judge Peter Cahill would have to find there were “aggravating factors”. And even if those are found, legal experts have said Chauvin would likely face a maximum of 30 years.

“Aggravating factors”

In legal briefs filed on Friday, prosecutors said Chauvin should be sentenced above the guideline range. That’s because Floyd was particularly vulnerable, with his hands cuffed behind his back as he was face-down on the ground. They noted Chauvin held his position even after Floyd became unresponsive and officers knew he had no pulse.

Prosecutors also said Chauvin treated Floyd with particular cruelty during the lengthy restraint. And that he abused his position of authority as a police officer.

They also wrote that Chauvin committed his crime as part of a group. And they added that he pinned Floyd down in the presence of children — including a nine-year-old girl. The girl testified at trial that watching the restraint made her “sad and kind of mad”.

Nelson responded:

Mr Chauvin entered into the officers’ encounter with Mr Floyd with legal authority to assist in effecting the lawful arrest of an actively-resisting criminal suspect. Mr Chauvin was authorised, under Minnesota law, to use reasonable force to do so.

Nelson denied the prosecution’s claims that Floyd was vulnerable and that Chauvin acted with particular cruelty.

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