State Watch

Ruling clears way for longer Chauvin sentence in George Floyd murder

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Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill has ruled that there were aggravating factors in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd last May, a decision that could prompt a longer prison sentence for Chauvin.

In the ruling, which was filed Tuesday evening, Cahill concluded that Chauvin abused his “position of trust and authority” as a police officer and displayed “particular cruelty” when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, killing him.

After a monthlong trial that spanned from late March to mid-April, Chauvin was convicted of all three criminal counts he was facing: Second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Since the charges all stemmed from a single criminal action, Chauvin’s sentence will be determined by his most serious offense, second-degree murder.

The maximum sentence for second-degree murder in Minnesota is 40 years, though before Cahill’s ruling was handed down, most experts predicted that the former police officer wouldn’t serve anywhere close to that long because of the state’s presumptive sentencing guidelines, which give a recommended range based on the crime and a person’s past criminal record.

Per the guidelines, the recommended sentence for Chauvin was 12.5 years, with a range of 10.67 years to 15 years.

For a judge in Minnesota to increase the sentence outside of the guideline range — known as an upward departure — they must cite specific reasoning like aggravating factors.

Cahill’s decision is a win for state prosecutors, led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D), who filed a motion seeking an upward departure in Chauvin’s sentencing on April 30. 

The prosecution argued five aggravating factors in their filing; Cahill agreed with four of them.

Even if Chauvin’s sentence is increased, he could still not serve the entire term in prison, as Minnesota’s de facto rule is to release defendants on parole after two-thirds of their sentence if they exhibit good behavior.

Nonetheless, Chauvin now faces new charges, as last week he and the three other officers who were involved with Floyd’s death were indicted on federal charges that allege the group violated Floyd’s civil rights.

Chauvin was also pinned with another federal civil rights count for using a neck restraint on a 14-year-old child back in 2017.

If convicted, he would serve the federal sentence concurrently to his state sentence.

Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Kueng — the other officers who were on the scene — also face state counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter, and will stand trial together in August.

Tags Black Lives Matter Derek Chauvin trial George Floyd death Keith Ellison police reform
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