MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, whose dying gasps under Chauvin’s knee led to the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the US in generations.
The punishment — which fell short of the 30 years that prosecutors had requested — came after Chauvin broke his more than yearlong silence in court to offer condolences to the Floyd family and say he hopes more information coming out will eventually give them “some peace of mind.”
With good behavior, Chauvin, 45, could be paroled after serving two-thirds of his sentence, or about 15 years.
In imposing the punishment, Judge Peter Cahill went beyond the 12½-year sentence prescribed under state guidelines, citing “your abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty” shown to Floyd.
Chauvin was immediately led back to prison. As with the verdicts in April, he showed little emotion when the judge pronounced the sentence. His eyes moved rapidly around the courtroom, his COVID-19 mask obscuring much of his face.
The fired white officer was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for up to nine and-a-half minutes as the 46-year-old Black man gasped that he couldn’t breathe and went limp on May 25, 2020.
Bystander video of Floyd’s arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store prompted protests around the world and led to scattered violence in Minneapolis and beyond.
On Friday, Chauvin, who did not testify at his trial, removed his mask and turned toward the Floyd family, speaking only briefly because of what he called “some additional legal matters at hand” — an apparent reference to the federal civil rights trial he still faces.
“But very briefly, though, I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind,” he said, without elaborating.
In asking that Chauvin be left off on probation, defense attorney Eric Nelson called Floyd’s death “tragic” and said that Chauvin’s “brain is littered with what-ifs” from that day: “What if I just did not agree to go in that day? What if things had gone differently? What if I never responded to that call? What if what if what if?”
Floyd’s family members took the stand and expressed sorrow about his death. They asked for the maximum penalty.
“We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist. We’ve been through that already,” said a tearful Terrence Floyd, one of Floyd’s brothers.
Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams said: “Our family is forever broken.” And Floyd’s seven-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a video played in court, said that if she could say something to her father now, it would be: “I miss you and I love you.”
Prosecutor Matthew Frank asked the judge to exceed sentencing guidelines and give Chauvin 30 years in prison, saying “tortured is the right word” for what the officer did to Floyd.
“This is not a momentary gunshot, punch to the face. This is nine and-a-half minutes of cruelty to a man who was helpless and just begging for his life,” Frank said.