Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty last month of three charges — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter — in the murder of George Floyd. Though Chauvin’s trial has ended, the legal ramifications of the case are far from resolved — from the fate of the other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest to efforts by the federal government to address police brutality in Minneapolis and throughout the nation. Here’s what to expect in the coming weeks and months.
Derek Chauvin’s Sentencing
After being found guilty by the jury, Chauvin’s bail was immediately revoked by Judge Peter Cahill and he was remanded into state custody. The former officer had posted bail on a $1 million bond back in October 2020 and had been free from state prison pending the trial.
As he awaits sentencing, Chauvin was sent to the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights, the state’s only maximum-security prison, as reported by the New York Times. Due to concerns for his safety, the former officer is being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, with one hour outside of his cell for exercise.
Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25th at 1:30 p.m. Central Time, pushed back from the original date of June 16 due to a scheduling conflict.
Chauvin is facing decades in prison. A second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, with a 25-year maximum for third-degree murder and a 10-year maximum for second-degree manslaughter.
However, Chauvin has no prior criminal record and Minnesota sentencing guidelines allow for a lesser sentence for those without past charges. The state recommends 12 and a half years for the murder charges, with a discretionary range for the judge of 10 years and six months to 15 years. The manslaughter charge has a recommended sentence of four years.
But on May 11, Judge Cahill filed a notice indicating that he found aggravating factors in Floyd’s death, which suggests the judge might be considering a heavier sentence.
Cahill listed four factors: that Chauvin abused a “position of trust and authority,” treated Floyd with “particular cruelty,” that children were present during Chauvin’s actions, and the crime was committed “as a group with the active participation of at least three other persons.”
Prosecution requests a new trial
Prior to the verdict being revealed, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, had asked for a mistrial due to recent comments from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who said protesters needed to “stay on the street” and get “more confrontational” if Chauvin were found not guilty.
Cahill denied his request, but told Nelson, “I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
On May 4, Nelson filed a motion requesting a new trial, claiming that Chauvin did not receive a fair trial. He cited alleged jury and prosecutorial misconduct, as well as Judge Cahill’s decision not to sequester the jury during the length of the trial.
Minnesota Public Radio also reports that Nelson requested a hearing to “impeach the verdict … on grounds that the jury committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”
It’s unclear how much of an impact this motion will have. Legal experts suggest that it’s unlikely that a judge would rule to throw out the jury’s verdict, as it is a move with a high burden of proof.
The Federal Trial
A federal grand jury indicted Chauvin and the three other officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, on charges that they violated Floyd’s constitutional rights when they detained and restrained him.
The indictment said that Chauvin deprived Floyd of the right to “to be free from an unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer.”
Thao and Kueng are charged with not intervening to stop Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force. All four officers are accused of not providing Floyd with medical care when it was clear he needed it.
The State Trial of the Other Officers
Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, the three other officers on the scene during Floyd’s arrest, were originally scheduled to stand trial on August 23, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
But Judge Cahill announced that their trial will be pushed back to March 2022 in order for the federal trial to proceed and to allow for space between their trial and Chauvin’s due to the significant attention his trial received.
The former Minneapolis police officers face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin’s conviction suggests a trickier path forward for the officers’ defense, though the prosecution will still have to prove the extent of the role they played in an incident where the focus has largely been on Chauvin.
It remains to be seen if the officers will attempt a plea deal in light of Chauvin being found guilty.
Justice Department Investigations
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice was launching an investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department, one day after Chauvin’s guilty verdict was handed down. It would involve members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota and the Justice Department’s civil-rights division.
“It will include a comprehensive review of the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies, training, supervision and use-of-force investigations. It will assess the effectiveness of the MPD’s current systems of accountability and whether other mechanisms are needed to ensure constitutional and lawful policing,” Garland said at a news conference.
He also said the investigation would try to determine whether officers participated in discriminatory conduct and if they provided fair treatment to people with behavioral-health disabilities. The department will release a public report with their findings, if a consistent pattern of misconduct is discovered within the MPD.
The attorney general said that this probe is separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into George Floyd’s death.
Legislation in Congress
Congressional Democrats are still fighting to pass criminal-justice-reform legislation known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
A version of this bill was introduced and passed through the House last year, only to stall over opposition in the then-Republican controlled Senate. With Democrats holding a majority, albeit a slim one, in both chambers, the Justice in Policing Act was reintroduced this year and once again passed in the House.
The legislation calls for significant changes, including barring chokehold and cartoid holds on the federal level; banning some instances of no-knock warrants, which many believe contributed to the death of Breonna Taylor; and establishing a national registry for police misconduct, to prevent disciplined officers from simply moving to another force.
President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris have thrown their support behind the bill and have pushed for it more forcefully since Chauvin’s conviction.
Addressing the nation hours after the verdict was declared, Biden said, “We also need Congress to act,” noting that Floyd was murdered nearly a year earlier and the bill named for him has yet to pass.
He continued, “It shouldn’t take a whole year to get this done. In my conversations with the Floyd family, I spoke with them again today, I assured them that we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, so I can sign it into law as quickly as possible. There’s more to do.”
“Last summer, together with Senator Cory Booker and Representative Karen Bass, I introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This bill would hold law enforcement accountable and help build trust between law enforcement and our communities,” Harris said.
“This bill is part of George Floyd’s legacy. The president and I will continue to urge the Senate to pass this legislation, not a panacea for every problem, but as a start,” she added.