The prosecution had sought 30 years while Chauvin’s defense argued in favor of probation. Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of up to 15 years for someone with no prior criminal record like Chauvin.
Cahill said this sentence was based on Chauvin’s “abuse of a position of trust and authority, but also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd.”
The judge did not go in depth about his reasoning in the courtroom, but attached a 22-page memo explaining his decision to the sentencing.
“I’m not basing my sentence also on public opinion. I am not basing it on any attempt to send any messages,” Cahill said. “The job of a trial court judge is to apply the law to specific facts and to deal with individual cases.”
Prior to the sentence being declared, the court heard victim impact statements from Floyd’s family, including his brothers Philonise and Terrence and his 7-year-old daughter Gianna, via video.
Philonise Floyd spoke directly to Cahill, asking him to give Chauvin “the maximum sentence possible” in order to give Gianna closure.
“My family and I have been given a life sentence. We will never be able to get George back,” he said.
Carolyn Pawlenty, Chauvin’s mother, spoke on her son’s behalf, calling him a “good man” and asking for leniency in his sentencing.
“I believe a lengthy sentence will not serve Derek well. When you sentence my son, you will also be sentencing me,” she said.
Cahill declined Chauvin’s request for a new trial earlier in the day, writing that Chauvin and his legal team “failed to demonstrate” that he was denied his right to a fair trial or that there was any instance of jury or prosecutorial misconduct.
In April, Chauvin was found guilty on three counts – second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter – just one day after the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments.
On May 25th, 2020, Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man was detained and restrained by police officers outside of a Minneapolis convenience store. Video footage showed Chauvin, a white officer, kneeling on Floyd’s neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. Floyd, who could be heard on the recording saying “I can’t breathe,” would later be pronounced dead.
Floyd’s death sparked months of protests and demonstrations against racism and police brutality across the country, prompting calls for criminal justice reform and social change.
The other three officers present that day – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao – were arrested at the same time as Chauvin and are currently awaiting trial on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Their trial is slated to start in March 2022. All four men were also indicted by a federal grand jury last May on charges that the former officers violated Floyd’s civil rights.
This post has been updated.