MINNEAPOLIS — Following a day of emotional outpouring from members of George Floyd's family, Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday, June 25, to 22½ years in Minnesota prison.
The sentence, believed to be the longest ever dealt to an officer in Minnesota, is both shorter than what prosecutors sought and more severe than the probation Chauvin's attorney asked for. At a news conference outside the Hennepin County District Court building, Floyd's family on Friday expressed a measure of satisfaction with the ruling but said the most just outcome, one wherein Floyd lived, was not possible.
"What we got today was some semblance of accountability," said Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing members of Floyd's family.
Together with Rev. Al Sharpton, Crump and the Floyd family called on the U.S. Senate to pass a reform bill named in Floyd's memory. The House passed the bill roughly one year ago.
Chauvin's sentencing comes more than a year after he kneeled on Floyd's neck May 25, 2020, killing him outside a south Minneapolis convenience store. The incident, caught on video by a bystander, galvanized the U.S. police reform movement, set off a wave of protest, and culminated in a widely viewed trial in which he was found guilty on one count each of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin, 45, appeared in court Friday with a close-cropped haircut and wearing a light gray suit and tie and surgical face mask. He sat stoically, his eyes darting around the room, as the proceedings unfolded. He spoke only briefly, having opted not to testify at trial, and implied that he could not speak at length due to the federal case against him.
"I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family," he said, addressing the Floyd family directly for the first time. "There's going to be some other information that would be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you."
The federal case, which alleges civil rights violations on Chauvin's part, is still ongoing.
Before he was sentenced, Floyd's family members made what are known as victim impact statements. They spoke of the effect Floyd's murder has had on their lives, and said his absence will be felt at everything from play dates to birthday celebrations, from graduation parties to weddings.
They pressed Friday for Judge Peter Cahill to hand down the maximum prison sentence allowable and discussed the trauma of reliving the events Floyd's murder in the year since it occurred. When his daughter is old enough to understand, Floyds' brother Terrence Floyd said, telling her about the killing will mean reliving it "all over again years down the line."
In a prerecorded statement, Gianna Floyd, George Floyd's 7-year-old daughter, said if she could tell her father anything, "It would be I miss you and I love him."
Members of Chauvin's family were in attendance Friday and did not react visibly to his sentencing, according to a pool reporter present in the courtroom. His mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, asked Cahill before the sentence was announced for leniency, calling Chauvin a "good man" and her "favorite son."
She said she believes him to be innocent, as do many others who have written to her.
“When you sentence my son, you will also be sentencing me," Pawlenty told Cahill.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson described Chauvin's mind as being "littered with what-ifs" about the May 25, 2020, murder and asked for leniency, noting that the majority of Minnesota defendants convicted of second-degree murder charges in recent years received shorter sentences on par with state sentencing guidelines. He had earlier argued that Chauvin should receive either a lighter sentence than state guidelines prescribe or probation with time served.
Citing Chauvin's abuse of authority and commission of a crime in the presence of children, however, prosecutors this month asked Cahill to sentence him to prison for 30 years for second-degree murder — the most serious of the three charges he faced and the only one he can be sentenced on under Minnesota law. Cahill said Friday that he made his sentencing decision, which is 10 years longer than what guidelines recommend for first-time offenders convicted of second-degree murder, based only on the facts of the case.
He cited aggravating factors highlighted by the prosecution, including Chauvin's abuse of a position of authority and cruel treatment of Floyd, as reason for the longer-than-normal sentence.
Chauvin is being held at the Oak Park Heights correctional facility in Stillwater, Minn. Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, the other former officers charged in Floyd's killing, are set to stand trial together in March.
Read Judge Cahill's sentencing memorandum: