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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?