from the beating-out-his-19-years-as-a-cop-by-a-narrow-margin dept
The police officer who set off months of anti-police violence protests has been sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly ten minutes… and for more than two minutes after another officer said he couldn’t detect a pulse.
This murder was carried out in broad daylight in front of several witnesses. Perhaps the most important witness was the one who filmed the entire killing: 17-year-old Darnella Frazier. Largely because of this recording, Chauvin was unable to elude justice.
Two months after Chauvin’s conviction on murder charges, Judge Peter Cahill has handed down a sentence nearly a decade longer than the 10-15 years recommended by state sentencing guidelines. This sentence is far more than Chauvin’s lawyer felt was justified. His attorney asked for time served and probation. (Chauvin had been incarcerated for 199 days by the time he was sentenced.) But it’s also less than what prosecutors had asked for: a 30-year sentence based on several aggravating factors.
Judge Cahill didn’t just hand down a sentence. He also issued a written order [PDF] explaining his decision to depart upwards from the sentencing guidelines. The order is thorough. And the list of aggravating factors includes the public nature of this killing and a reference to the witness who filmed the incident, creating an undeniable version of the facts that made it impossible for Chauvin to walk away from this.
Here’s the short version of the court’s explanation for its sentencing variance:
[T]he Court found that the evidence at trial proved beyond a reasonable doubt the following four aggravated sentencing factors:
(i) That Mr. Chauvin abused a position of trust and authority;
(ii) That Mr. Chauvin treated George Floyd with particular cruelty;
(iii) That children were present during the commission of the offense;
(iv) That Mr. Chauvin committed the crime as a group with the active participation of three other individuals, former Minneapolis Police Officers Thou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng, who all actively participated with Mr. Chauvin in the crime in various ways.
These are presented in more detail later on in the order.
Mr. Chauvin “abused his position of authority” by using unreasonable force to hold “a handcuffed George Floyd in a prone position on the street”—“a position that Defendant knew from his training and experience carried with it a danger of positional asphyxia”—for more than nine minutes and forty seconds, “an inordinate amount of time.”
“Defendant’s placement of his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck was an egregious abuse of the authority to subdue and restrain because the prolonged use of this maneuver was employed after George Floyd had already been handcuffed and continued for more than four and a half minutes after Mr. Floyd had ceased talking and had become unresponsive.”
That “failure to render aid became particularly abusive after Mr. Floyd had passed out, and was still being restrained in the prone position, with Mr. Chauvin continuing to kneel on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck with one knee and on his back with another knee, for more than two and a half minutes after one of his fellow officers announced he was unable to detect a pulse.”
Also factoring into the upward variance is the fact that this was no ordinary killing. As the court points out, this was an protracted, painful experience that ended in death — one that was far crueler than the acts normally associated with murders and assaults.
Mr. Chauvin’s prolonged restraint of Mr. Floyd was also much longer and more painful than the typical scenario in a second-degree or third-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter case. The “prolonged nature of the asphyxiation” makes this offense different in kind than, for example, a near-instantaneous death by gunshot, which is one typical scenario for this type of offense.
The conduct this Court has deemed particularly cruel also occurred over a longer period and was substantially more painful than a typical third-degree assault, the predicate felony offense for Mr. Chauvin’s second-degree murder conviction. […] . Chauvin’s conduct went beyond just inflicting “substantial bodily harm.” It “kill[ed] George Floyd slowly”—over the course of almost ten minutes—by inhibiting “his ability to breathe when Mr. Floyd had already made it clear he was having trouble breathing.” Indeed, Mr. Chauvin’s continuation of the assault after Mr. Floyd was no longer conscious and no longer had a pulse—Mr. Chauvin “continu[ed] to kneel on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck . . . for more than two and a half minutes after one of his fellow officers announced he was unable to detect a pulse”—plainly sets Mr. Chauvin’s conduct apart from the typical case involving a felony assault that results in substantial bodily harm and death to the victim.
For that, the judge tacks on another ten years. Chauvin — the second Minneapolis police officer to be convicted of murder in the last two years — will spend most of the next 15 years in jail and another eight years under supervised release. Nothing done here will bring George Floyd back to life. But the court’s willingness to depart upwards when sentencing a former cop should hopefully act as a deterrent towards future police violence.