It was a historic verdict. Two months after being convicted of manslaughter, second and third degree murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, policeman Derek Chauvin was sentenced to twenty-two and a half years in prison (two hundred seventy months), Friday June 25.
The sentencing schedule in Minnesota provided for a minimum of twelve and a half years in prison for the 45-year-old officer, who had been incarcerated upon the announcement of the verdict, but Judge Peter Cahill, who handed down the sentence from 1:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. in Paris) in a Minneapolis court, went beyond.
By retaining four aggravating circumstances, he had already paved the way for a much heavier sentence. The prosecutors, denouncing for their part “Odious abuses” and a pipe “Particularly cruel” police, had required thirty years of detention.
Hours before the hearing, onlookers gathered outside the court in Minneapolis, where soldiers deployed during the eight-week trial disappeared. A few businesses were still protected by wooden panels, but the northern metropolis seemed almost back to normal.
Moving intervention of the George Floyd family
At the start of the hearing, George Floyd’s family spoke out. In a video shown in the room, her 7-year-old daughter Gianna said she was asking “All the time news from him”. A family member asks her what she would say to her father if she could see him again: “It would be: I miss you and I love you”, did she say.
George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, has asked the court to sentence Derek Chauvin to the maximum sentence. George Floyd’s younger brother Terrence Floyd also called for the maximum sentence, asking Derek Chauvin: ” Why ? What did you have in mind when you knelt on my brother’s neck when you knew he was no threat? “. For his part, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank recalled that Derek Chauvin abused his power as a police officer the day he killed George Floyd.
For her part, Carolyn Pawlenty, the policeman’s mother said her son was ” a good man “, someone who “Has always devoted his life and his time to the police service”. “He thought about the events a lot” of 25 May 2020, “I saw the price he paid and I don’t think a heavy sentence is good for him”, she added during the hearing intended to set her sentence.
Finally, the policeman spoke briefly, to present his “Condolences to the Floyd family”, adding: “There will be new information in the future, which I hope will be interesting and which will give you peace of mind”, during his first public speech thirteen months after the death of George Floyd.
Police reform project
On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin and three colleagues wanted to arrest the black forty-something, suspected of having passed a fake 20 dollar bill in the large city in the north of the United States. To control him, they handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground in the middle of the street.
A knee on George Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin had maintained his pressure for nearly ten minutes, indifferent to the groans of the African-American but also to the pleas of distraught passers-by.
The scene, filmed and uploaded by a young girl, quickly went viral. Confined for weeks, crowds had taken to the streets of the United States, but also beyond, to demand an end to racism and police violence.
It took weeks for the mobilization to fall, but debates on these issues remain heated in the United States, where President Joe Biden is slow to materialize the reforms promised during his campaign.
Republican and Democratic senators, however, announced Thursday, after weeks of negotiations, to have concluded “An agreement in principle on a police reform project”. “There is still work to be done on the final law”, they clarified.
A decision that will be subject to appeal
Derek Chauvin’s trial had been followed closely across the country. Present continuously during the six weeks of hearings, the police officer refused to testify. His lawyer assured that he had contented himself with following the procedures in force in the police force and that the death of George Floyd was due to health problems combined with the ingestion of drugs.
The jurors were not convinced and took less than ten hours to find him guilty. Their decision was greeted with a big sigh of relief from many, who feared the country would flare up again if Derek Chauvin emerged free from the hearings.
His lawyer, Eric Nelson, has not changed his line of defense, however. He pleaded that his client had committed “A good faith error” and requested a reduced sentence to the length of time already served, which would allow the police officer to be released immediately. He put forward the risk that his client, who was imprisoned in a high security establishment, would be killed in prison.
In parallel, he sought the annulment of the trial, in part because of doubts about the impartiality of some jurors. On Friday morning, Judge Peter Cahill dismissed his motion, finding he had “Failed to prove” his allegations.
Whatever the decision, it will be subject to appeal, Mr.e Nelson having already expressed his intention to seek the annulment of the verdict, in particular because of doubts about the impartiality of certain jurors.
The court case will not stop there: the three colleagues of Derek Chauvin will be tried in March 2022 for “Complicity in murder” by Minnesota Justice.
At the same time, the four men will also have to appear before federal justice to “Violation of constitutional rights” by George Floyd. No date has yet been set.
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