With a sentence of 22.5 years in prison, an unusual criminal case came to an unusual end on Friday. Former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted by a judge in Minneapolis for killing inmate George Floyd in May 2020. Chauvin is only the second officer in the history of the US state of Minnesota to have been charged with killing a civilian while carrying out police duties. , is condemned.
The judge did not follow the prosecution, which had demanded thirty years in prison, a doubling of the sentence as stated in the guidelines. But he dismissed the defense’s plea for a suspended sentence as “inappropriate.”
The judge pointed to four aggravating circumstances for increasing the usual sentence for such a crime by a suspect without a criminal record. Chauvin had abused his “position of authority and trust.” He had acted with “particular cruelty,” even in front of children among the bystanders. And he had committed his crime in conjunction with three other officers. That last circumstance does not bode well for those three officers, who will later appear in court.
The verdict is exceptional, as many officers have not been prosecuted or acquitted after killing civilians. In Minnesota, no officer was ever given a harsher sentence. In his very brief explanation, the judge emphasized that the great publicity surrounding this case did not factor into his decision. After George Floyd’s death, unrest erupted across the US and abroad. The actions of the officers involved sparked a public debate about the need for police reforms. The numerous protective constructions laid down in laws or collective labor agreements for officers who misbehave during military service were also a subject of these discussions.
Chauvin’s quick conviction by the jury after the trial in April this year brought a fairly general sense of relief: this criminal police officer was not going to get off mercifully. The verdict, harsher than the guidelines, sealed the conviction.
This is not justice, but it is a milestone of accountability on the path to justice
Keith Ellison Chief Prosecutor of the State of Minnesota
Still, the reactions were mixed. “This is a slap on the wrist,” said Rodney Floyd, the victim’s brother. And a cousin said: “We got a life sentence. We’ll never get George back.” Minnesota Chief Justice Keith Ellison, who presided over Chauvin’s trial, said in a news conference that the sentence was “not justice, but it was a milestone of accountability on the path to justice.”
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In Washington, President Biden answered questions about the verdict. Before the jury had reached a verdict, he had expressed hopes for a conviction and had been sharply criticized for it. The president should not interfere in ongoing criminal cases. Perhaps that’s why his answer on Friday was worded more cautiously. “I don’t know all the circumstances that were factored in,” Biden said. “But it seems to me, given the guidelines, an appropriate punishment.”