Minneapolis, MN – The Hennepin County district court judge presiding over the sentencing of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin found prosecutors had proven four-out-of-five aggravating factors “beyond a reasonable doubt” so the nature of his crimes deserved a longer sentence.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill agreed with prosecutors that Chauvin had abused his position of authority and treated George Floyd with particular cruelty, WCCO reported.
“It was particularly cruel to kill George Floyd slowly by preventing his ability to breathe when Mr. Floyd had already made it clear he was having trouble breathing,” Cahill’s ruling read.
Further aggravating factors included the fact that children were present during the incident and that Chauvin committed the crime as a group with at least three other people assisting him, WCCO reported.
However, the judge said the prosecution had not proven their assertion that Floyd was particularly vulnerable.
That means Cahill will likely sentence Chauvin for longer than the 12.5 years indicated by Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, WCCO reported.
In Minnesota, a person who has been convicted of multiple crimes that occurred at the same time usually gets sentenced for only the most severe charge, according to NPR.
Chauvin’s most serious charge was second-degree murder (unintentional) while committing a felony.
Under state guidelines, given Chauvin’s lack of prior criminal history, he should be sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for second-degree murder, NPR reported.
The maximum sentence for second-degree unintentional murder is 40 years in prison, but NPR reported that the state’s largely tapered off at 24 years.
Chauvin is facing up to a maximum of 40 years behind bars with enhanced sentencing, WCCO reported.
He is scheduled for sentencing in Cahill’s courtroom on June 25.
Chauvin will be eligible for parole after he has served two-thirds of his prison sentence if he has not had any disciplinary problems while incarcerated, according to Minnesota law.
Prosecutors have called for harsher sentences for all of the officers charged in connection with the death of Floyd.
The jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter on April 20 after less than 12 hours of deliberations.
Cahill revoked his bail and remanded Chauvin to the custody of the court.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, filed a motion for a new trial on May 4 alleging the trial was tainted by the bad behavior of state prosecutors and juror misconduct.
The motion filed by Nelson also cited Cahill’s failure to change the venue and sequester the jury from the media circus that accompanied the trial.
Nelson’s motion called for a new trial to be granted because Cahill’s abuse of discretion deprived Chauvin of a fair trial in numerous ways, including his denial of the defense’s motion for a new trial after “publicity during the proceedings threaten[ed] the fairness of the trial.”
The city of Minneapolis made the largest pre-trial settlement in U.S. history with Floyd’s family during jury selection, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) levied threats of what would happen without a guilty verdict, and black-clad vandals attacked the former home of one of the defense’s expert witnesses with pig’s blood before the trial had even finished.
“Such publicity included post-testimony, but predeliberation, intimidation of the defense’s expert witnesses, from which the jury was not insulated,” Nelson wrote in the motion. “Not only did such acts escalate the potential for prejudice in these proceedings, they may result in a far-reaching chilling effect on defendants’ ability to procure expert witness—especially in high-profile cases, such as those of Mr. Chauvin’s codefendants—to testify on their behalf.”
“The publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings,” the motion read.
The motion pointed out that Cahill had “failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or in the least, admonish them to avoid all media, which resulted in jury exposure to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during the proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors, which violated Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to due process and to a fair trial.”
Nelson also pointed to juror misconduct in his motion.
Brandon Mitchell, the first juror to go public, has been making the media circuit talking about his experience deciding Chauvin’s fate and promoting his podcast.
In the process, Mitchell advocated using jury duty for social justice purposes and revealed he may have had an agenda.
During jury selection, Mitchell claimed he’d never even watched the entire video of Floyd’s death.
But once the trial was over and Chauvin had been convicted on all three charges, it turned out that Mitchell had engaged in activism.
Pictures posted to social media by a family member showed that Mitchell had actively participated in anti-police protests in Washington, DC last summer while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt that said “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.”
Cahill has not yet responded to Nelson’s motion.