Minneapolis, MN – Hennepin County prosecutors on Monday explained in a court filing why they believe the officers charged in connection with the death of George Floyd should face harsher sentences than normally called for if they are convicted.
In September, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill told prosecutors that he wanted to see their justification for the “upward departures” in sentencing they sought against those who might be convicted of Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Matthew Frank, a prosecutor from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office, submitted a five-page memo to Cahill that said prosecutors believed the position of trust held by the police officers, as well as Floyd’s vulnerability, could be used to justify giving the officers longer sentences if convicted.
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death during his arrest. His charges have since been upgraded to second-degree murder.
On June 3, former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder for their role in Floyd’s arrest.
The officers had responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that Floyd had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli.
Store employees pointed out the suspect to police and they arrested him.
The complaint used to charge Chauvin said Floyd actively resisted arrest and then fought being put in the back of a police car once he had been handcuffed.
Viral cell phone video showed then-Officer Chauvin and three other officers holding Floyd on the ground.
The video showed Officer Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time the suspect lost consciousness.
Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he was unresponsive.
Former Officer Thao’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the two aiding-and-abetting charges citing a lack of probable cause.
An attorney for one of the other officers charged in Floyd’s death filed a motion to dismiss the charges against his client, too, on Aug. 18 claiming that Floyd had actually overdosed on fentanyl while resisting arrest.
The judge has not yet decided whether he will allow the former Minneapolis police officers’ cases to be separated for trial.
Attorneys for the other three former officers charged in connection with Floyd’s death want Chauvin to go to trial first and have argued that if he is not convicted, the charges against all three other officers should not stand.
Prosecutors want all four officers to be prosecuted together and have said they believe it will be too expensive and difficult for witnesses and Floyd’s family to go through the process multiple times.
In arguing for the increased sentences for the officers, prosecutors said Floyd became “vulnerable” when he was handcuffed and held down on the pavement, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
“Such ‘power imbalances’ may be present even when a defendant occupies a position of authority but has no pre-existing relationship with the victim,” Frank argued and cited an appellate ruling in favor of longer sentences when a victim cannot protect himself.
Earl Gray, attorney for former Officer Lane, said the move by Ellison was yet another attempt to poison the jury pool, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
“They first have to get a conviction,” Gray pointed out.
Trial is scheduled to begin on March 8, 2021, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.