Chauvin gets 22 1/2 years for George Floyd's murder
Updated 7:44 p.m.
Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced on Friday to 22 1/2 years in prison for the May 2020 murder of George Floyd while in police custody.
The sentence handed down by Judge Peter Cahill is 10 years longer than state guidelines recommend, although it’s less than what prosecutors had sought.
Cahill said he went further than the recommended guidelines because Chauvin had abused his authority as a police officer, and because of “the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd."
Watch the sentencing below:
MPR News is Member Supported
What does that mean? The news, analysis and community conversation found here is funded by donations from individuals. Make a gift of any amount today to support this resource for everyone.
The judge kept his comments short but emphasized the sentence was not driven by public opinion or emotions and that he was not attempting to “send any messages” with his decision.
Shortly after, he posted a detailed 22-page memorandum supporting his sentence. In there, he wrote that Chauvin “treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings and which he certainly would have extended to a friend or a neighbor.”
Cahill, who earlier in the day turned aside Chauvin’s requests for a new trial and a hearing on possible juror misconduct, also wrote that Chauvin “must be held accountable for the death of Mr. Floyd and for doing so in a manner that was particularly cruel and an abuse of this authority.”
In April, a jury found Chauvin guilty on all counts tied to Floyd’s killing. Per Minnesota law, he was sentenced Friday only on the most serious charge of second-degree murder.
Standing at the threshold of his historic sentencing Friday, Chauvin offered condolences to the family of George Floyd but declined to make a broader statement, citing “ongoing legal matters.”
He added, cryptically, that information would be released “in the near future” that he hoped would offer the family “some peace of mind.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted Chauvin, said the sentence was not “justice, but it is another moment of real accountability on the road to justice.”
In later remarks, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump also expressed hope that Chauvin would be found guilty under federal law for violating George Floyd’s civil rights. "We're still holding out for the maximum."
Most offenders in the state usually serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison and the remaining third on supervised release. The Minnesota Department of Corrections expects Chauvin to be released from prison in December 2035, about 14 1/2 years, at age 59.
While a conviction on federal charges could add more prison time, some Floyd supporters and family members said Cahill’s sentence should have been harsher.
"When you think about George being murdered, in cold blood with a knee on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, execution-style in broad daylight, 22 1/2 years is not enough,” Brandon Williams, Floyd's nephew, said later. “We were served a life sentence. We can't get George back."
Court began Friday with victim impact statements from Floyd’s daughter, nephew and brothers, who urged Cahill to impose a maximum sentence on Chauvin as they struggled to speak to the pain they’ve all suffered since Floyd’s killing.
“We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist,” said Terrence Floyd, George Floyd’s brother.
Addressing Chauvin directly, Terrence Floyd said, “I wanted to know from the man himself: Why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck?"
Another brother, Philonise Floyd, told the court he’s been unable to shake the images caught on video of George pleading for his life while under Chauvin’s knee.
"I haven't had a real night's sleep because of the nightmares I constantly have hearing my brother beg and plead for his life over and over again,” he said.
Williams said the murder had permanently traumatized his family. “Our family is forever broken, and one thing we can’t get back is George Floyd.”
Seven-year-old Gianna, George Floyd's daughter, said in a video interview she wished her father was still here, but that he's with her in spirit. She told the court she wants to play games with him, and misses him helping her brush her teeth before bed. If he were here, she said she would tell him, "I love him.”
Chauvin’s mother: ‘My son is a good man’
Before sentencing, Carolyn Pawlenty, Chauvin's mother, pleaded with the judge for a more lenient sentence, saying that her son was not a racist and had dedicated his life to public service.
“My son is a good man,” she told the court. “Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man. He has a big heart and has always put others before his own.”
She said her two proudest moments were the day her son was born and the day she pinned the badge to his chest at a ceremony for new officers.
Prosecutors had asked for Chauvin to be sentenced to 30 years, while Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, recommended that he go on probation with time served.
Chauvin has been housed at the state’s maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights since his conviction. People don’t typically go to a prison while waiting for sentencing. Chauvin is there for security reasons.
Most state prisons have a unit to separate inmates from the general population for safety or security, but Oak Park Heights has what the Department of Corrections calls Minnesota's “most secure” unit to separate individuals from others in the prison for disciplinary or security reasons.
Department of Corrections spokesperson Sarah Fitzgerald said Chauvin returned to the unit at the maximum-security prison following his sentencing Friday. She said his ultimate placement hasn't been determined, “but his safety will be our predominate concern when determining final placement.”
In a previous order, Cahill agreed that there were aggravating factors present during Floyd’s killing that would support a sentence harsher than what state guidelines recommend.
Those factors include that Chauvin abused his position of authority, that Floyd was treated with “particular cruelty,” that the crime was committed by a group and that children were present at the scene.
State guidelines called for a recommended sentence of about 12.5 years. That was the same sentence given to Mohamed Noor, who in 2019 became the first officer in the state to be convicted of murdering a civilian.
By one criminologist’s count, Chauvin is only the 11th officer to be convicted for an on-duty murder since 2005. The vast majority of the cases that are successfully prosecuted in the U.S. involve convictions for lesser charges than murder, according to Philip Stinson of Bowling Green State University.
Although there isn’t much data to rely on, Stinson said the cases involving firearms typically led to shorter sentences than incidents involving other weapons or strangulation. He expected Chauvin to probably be sentenced to between 16 and 20 years.
Call on a counterfeit bill led to fatal encounter
Chauvin was one of several officers called to a south Minneapolis street corner May 25, 2020 on a report of a man allegedly using a counterfeit $20 to buy cigarettes at a local store.
He arrived to find other officers struggling to arrest Floyd and get him in a squad car as Floyd pleaded that he was claustrophobic.
The encounter turned fatal as officers pulled Floyd to the ground to subdue him during the arrest.
Bystander video captured Chauvin with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the man lay pinned to the street, handcuffed and face down, pleading that he couldn’t breathe while people shouted from the curb that Floyd was dying.
Floyd’s killing sparked worldwide outrage when the video of the police subduing him went viral on social media, driving peaceful mass demonstrations that sometimes spasmed into violence.
The image of a white police officer who appeared indifferent to the suffering of a Black man under his knee begging for mercy made race an inescapable part of the story.
In the trial, prosecutors painted the ex-officer as a cop who disregarded his training, his department’s use of force rules and Floyd’s suffering.
“What the defendant did was not policing. What the defendant did was an assault,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher told jurors in April. “He betrayed the badge.”