On Friday, June 25th, Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 years and six months in prison for the murder of George Floyd, which sparked protests across the country and instigated an ongoing conversation about police reform in the United States.
Chauvin was facing up to 40 years in prison, but the prosecution only argued for 30. Judge Peter Cahill ultimately decided that just over 22 years was the proper sentence. During the hearing, Chauvin spoke to the Floyd family for the first time since his arrest, offering his condolences.
In his lengthy statement to the court, Cahill noted that Chauvin killed a man in front of a crowd full of people including children, and that he had abused “a position of trust and authority” and treated Floyd “with particular cruelty.”
Police rarely see jail time when they kill someone on duty, and Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, said that this case could be a turning point for the country.
“Today represents an opportunity to be a turning point in America. This is the longest sentence that a police officer has been sentenced to in the state of Minnesota,” Crump said.
In a statement to the court earlier this month, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, had asked the judge to overlook the evidence in the case and give him probation because he was a cop. Nelson said, “look beyond its findings, to his background, his lack of criminal history, his amenability to probation, to the unusual facts of this case, and to his being a product of a ‘broken’ system.”
Nelson also argued that the judge should declare a mistrial because the jury could be influenced by public opinion. When all else failed, Nelson suggested that his team would be appealing the case.
Derek Chauvin was with the Minneapolis Police Department for 19 years, and in that time, he has been involved in multiple shootings in which people were killed, and has had multiple excessive force complaints.
While he was arresting George Floyd, he kept his knee on the back of his neck and forced him to remain face down on the pavement, as Floyd struggled to breathe, and begged for his life with the remaining air that he could muster. It is not proper protocol to kneel on the back of a person’s neck, because that is an extremely sensitive area, and a lot of damage can be done if enough force is applied to certain areas of the neck. Also, there is no need to take such measures with a man who is already in handcuffs.
The defense attorneys for the officers who were charged with the killing will argue that they were justified because Floyd was not immediately obedient, and because he begged the officers not to hurt or arrest him. Passing off a fake twenty-dollar bill should not be an offense that lands someone in handcuffs, so he had every right to plead and protest with the officers about getting arrested over such a petty offense.