Derek Michael Chauvin will spend the next 270 months in prison for the second-degree murder of George Floyd, with credit for the 99 days already served. At sentencing, Judge Peter Cahill repeatedly addressed the pain felt by Mr. Floyd’s family and the community, and then said:
“I’m not basing my sentence also on public opinion. I’m not basing it on any attempt to send any messages.”
Chauvin’s sentence is an upward departure from Minnesota sentencing guidelines, which the judge addressed from the bench. He said:
“[T]hat is a 10-year addition to the presumptive sentence of 150 months; this is based on your abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd.”
Chauvin’s sentencing hearing started with a call for victim impact statements by Judge Cahill. Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s daughter, was first to give her statement by video. The camera shows a beautiful little girl with a bow in her hair being asked about her father by an unseen prosecutor.
“Prosecutor: Do you wish he were here today?
Gianna: Well, he is.
Prosecutor: Do you mean his spirit?
Mr. Floyd’s brothers and nephew gave the other three statements, which were tearful reminiscences alongside appeals for the court to impose the maximum sentence on Chauvin.
Prosecutor Matthew Frank thanked the Floyd family and argued this murder warranted a great deviation from the sentencing guidelines. Because then-Officer Chauvin “abused his position of trust and authority” by treating George Floyd with particular cruelty in the presence of children. He asked for a “double departure” from the sentencing guidelines and the imposition of a 360-month sentence. Frank said he thought torture was the right word to describe Mr. Floyd’s treatment.
Mr. Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, spoke to the court in his defense. After addressing the court, proclaiming Derek Chauvin’s good character, she addressed her son. She said, “My happiest moment is when I gave birth to you, and my second is when I was honored to pin your police badge on you.” She was followed by defense counsel Eric Nelson, who reminded the judge that he needed to balance any aggravating factors with the positive ones from Chauvin’s life and police service.
After Mr. Nelson’s statements, Judge Cahill called Nelson and Chauvin to the podium and offered Mr. Chauvin the chance to speak. Chauvin said:
“I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest, and I hope things will give you some, some peace of mind. Thank you.”
Mr. Chauvin still faces a federal criminal prosecution, so he is not advised to speak about the case, but what about the information that will come out in the future? There were no hints given as to what that might be, and the comment seemed bizarre given how much attention has been paid to the case. After Chauvin’s statement, the judge recessed the court for 15 minutes to consider the testimony and make a final decision on his sentencing order.
Denial of Defense Requests
Derek Chauvin started the day with two losses before the sentencing hearing even began. Judge Cahill issued a two-page order, denying the defense motion for a new trial and denying its request for a hearing about impropriety concerning jurors. Cahill declined to order a “Schwartz” hearing to determine whether an outside influence has had a prejudicial effect on the jury, writing:
“Defendant has failed to establish a prima facie case of juror misconduct or that a juror gave false testimony during voir dire to warrant an evidentiary hearing.”
Voir dire is the jury questioning process. Judge Cahill also declined the three separate bases Chauvin’s counsel claimed deprived him “of his constitutional right to a fair trial.”
Mr. Chauvin has been in state custody since his convictions on crimes relating to George Floyd on April 20, 2021. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, made no announcement immediately after sentencing; however, an appeal is likely.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.