On Friday (June 25), former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years or 270 months in prison for the murder of George Floyd. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill submitted a 22-page memorandum to the sentence order. "I prefer you read the legal analysis that show how I determined the sentence in this case," he said. Chauvin will be banned from ever owning a firearm, and is required to submit a DNA sample to the state, per Minnesota law.
The sentence was handed down in Minneapolis where Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder in April, nearly a year after Chauvin knelt into the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Under state guidelines, Chauvin faced a maximum of 40 years, though his background and lack of criminal history brought the sentence maximum to 12 and half years before Cahill considered aggravating factors in the offense.
Those aggravating factors brought up the maximum sentence to 30 years and included: abusing a position of trust and authority, treating George Floyd with “particular cruelty,” children being present at the time of the offense, and committing the crime as a group since three other officers were involved in Floyd’s murder.
Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson previously moved to get his client a much lesser sentence, including only probation. Chauvin will have 90 days to appeal his sentence, and he still faces two federal cases.
Victim Impact Statements from the Floyd Family
In the court proceedings, the court heard from four Floyd family members including young Gianna Floyd, who in a recorded statement said she missed her father and asks about him frequently.
George Floyd's nephew Brandon Williams also spoke during the proceedings, giving an emotional statement about the family's ongoing "heartbreak and hurt" that go beyond words. "It has been truly unimaginable," Williams said. "One thing we cannot get back is George Floyd," he continued, adding that the family requested for the maximum possible sentence for Chauvin.
Terrence Floyd, George Floyd's brother, spoke to the courtroom, "I'm here representing my brother," he began. "On May 25, 2020 was murdered, everyone knows, by Derek Chauvin," he said, visibly holding back tears. "This situation has really affected me and my family," he continued.
"I wanted to know from the man himself, 'why?'" Terrence said. "What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother's neck?" he said, adding, "why didn't you get up?" Terrence revealed that a month before George's death, he and his brother talked over the phone to set up a playdate with each of their daughters, something he emphasized to the courts will never be able to happen now. Terrence restated to Judge Cahill that the family wants the maximum sentence for Chauvin, and that they don't want a "slap on the wrist" for the former officer.
Philonise Floyd gave the fourth and final victim impact statement heard in court. He began wiping tears from his eyes, describing the torture his brother endured in "broad daylight" a month and one year ago to the day. "I haven't had a real night's sleep because of the nightmares I have," Philonise said adding that he relived George's murder every day of the trial. "George's life mattered," he said before repeating to the judge that the Floyd family wants the maximum sentence possible. "Please help us find closure."
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank followed the family's statements, combing through the four aggravating factors found in the case for Chauvin's sentencing. "I commend this family, I commend all of the loved ones, friends, and people involved in this case," Frank said. "This is the time for their criminal justice system...to recognize this is more serious than the typical second-degree unintentional murder," he added.
Chauvin's Family Speaks
After the state wrapped up its arguments, Eric Nelson took the podium to introduce Chauvin's mother Carolyn Pawlenty. Pawlenty argued against claims that her son is racist, stating that he is "a good man." "I've always supported him 100 percent and always will," she said. "Derek has replayed the events of that day over and over," adding that "a lengthy sentence will not serve him well." "When you're sentencing Derek, you're sentencing me," she added, sparking critique online.
Nelson retook the podium, speaking on behalf of his client. He asked Cahill to consider mitigating factors in the case before handing down the sentence. "He's not coming into this as a career criminal," Nelson said, revealing that Chauvin volunteered to work on May 25, 2020 due to staffing shortages that day.
Chauvin spoke in court, noting that pending legal matters prevent him from providing a "full statement." He offered his condolences to the Floyd Family during his brief time at the podium. "There's going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind," he added.
'His Name was George Perry Floyd'
"His name was George Perry Floyd," prosecutors emphasized during Chauvin's trial in March. Following weeks of testimony, and witness statements, Chauvin was convicted of murdering George P. Floyd in the middle of a Minneapolis street. Floyd was accused by a convenience store manager of using a counterfeit $20 bill, which led to the deadly police encounter that ended his life.
Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020 sparked months-long global protests against police brutality. In the wake, a racial reckoning across America was reinvigorated, placing inequality and continued oppression at the forefront of national conversation. Since then, dozens more have been lost to police violence, and efforts to reinvest into communities, non-police emergency response teams, housing, employment, and more, continue.
Even with Chauvin’s sentence ongoing social justice work being done for those lost to police violence continues.
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.