Disgraced police officer Derek Chauvin will spend 22 and a half years in prison for the murder of George Floyd. In May 2020, video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes until Floyd died made waves around the world. Many claim Chauvin used excessive force on a man who was not resisting, while Chauvin, who pleaded not guilty, maintains it was an appropriate use of force. In April, Chauvin was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. The federal government alleges that Chauvin also infringed upon Floyd’s civil rights, and if convicted, he could face an even longer stay in prison. The three former Minneapolis police officers who were on the scene with Chauvin when he killed Floyd will be put on trial in March 2022.
Under Minnesota state guidelines, Chauvin should have received only 12 and a half years, but Judge Cahill lengthened the sentence, stating that Chauvin abused trust and authority and acted particularly cruelly toward Floyd. Before the sentencing, Cahill denied the defense’s request for a new trial. The defense believed that the publicity tainted the jury pool, and they wanted the trial moved out of Minneapolis. In response to the worries that the trial of Derek Chauvin could be emotionally-charged, the judge affirmed that the decision was not based on emotion or sympathy, but he acknowledged the pain and suffering of the Floyd family. Chauvin briefly expressed his condolences to the Floyd family and said he hoped that they would eventually have “peace of mind,” but he did not directly apologize for his involvement.
Also at the sentencing were Chauvin’s defense attorney and his mother. His defense attorney stated Chauvin should only receive probation, because Chauvin regrets his actions and his mind is filled with, “What ifs.” His mother defended him as well, stating that he was a good person and was unfairly represented as a heartless racist by public opinion. The prosecutor, meanwhile, charged that Chauvin’s 9 1/2-minute-long kneel on Floyd was “torture.”
Floyd’s family members, attorneys, and activists said they were not satisfied with Chauvin’s sentence, but they are hoping the federal indictment will result in a life sentence for Chauvin. Chauvin’s nephew claimed that the judge sent the wrong message to the black community by not giving Chauvin the maximum sentence (30 years), and many others agreed. However, many are also relieved that Chauvin is behind bars, since many other police officers charged with similar crimes have not been convicted, with there having been many mistrials and acquittals in the past.
Public reaction to the sentence of Chauvin was mixed, with some being satisfied with the sentence and some believing it should have been longer. About 50 people gathered outside the courthouse during the sentencing in support of Floyd. Their reaction was mixed, with some cursing in disgust while other Floyd supporters gathered at George Floyd Square said, “we’ll take it.” Many have been comparing Chauvin’s sentence with those for other crimes. For example, one Twitter user pointed out that some black drug dealers have received longer sentences than Chauvin.
Celebrities and other big names have been weighed in as well. Famous British news anchor Piers Morgan stated that he hoped Chauvin would “rot in jail.” Acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay sent out an impassioned tweet stating, “Derek Chauvin is a murderer. A murderer who watched multiple people plead for the life of the man he killed in broad daylight. A murderer who placed the full weight of his body on another human being’s neck and felt the life drain out of him. Derek Chauvin is a murderer.”
“I want to play with him,” said George Floyd’s daughter. “Miss you.”