Derek Chauvin sentence: 22.5 years in prison for murder of George Floyd

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 270 months, or 22 1/2 years, in prison Friday for the murder of George Floyd.

In April, a Hennepin County jury found Chauvin guilty of all three counts he was facing for his role in Floyd’s May 25, 2020 death: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. However, Chauvin was only sentenced on the most serious of those charges, second-degree unintentional murder. Chauvin's sentence is an upward departure from the presumptive sentence of 150 months, or 12 1/2 years, in prison that the charge carries. 

Cahill said he based the sentence on two aggravating factors he found in the case: that Chauvin abused his position of authority as a police officer and that Floyd was treated with particular cruelty. Chauvin will be credited for the 199 days he has already served in prison. 

"What the sentence is not based on is emotion or sympathy, but at the same time I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family," the judge said before handing down the sentence. "You have our sympathies." 

Cahill limited his comments in the courtroom, opting instead to attach a 22-page sentencing memorandum after the hearing that offered a more complete explanation of his decision. 

In the conclusion of his memorandum, Cahill wrote: "Part of the mission of the Minneapolis Police Department is to give citizens 'voice and respect.' Here, Mr. Chauvin, rather than pursuing the MPD mission, treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings and which he certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor. In the Court’s view, 270 months, which amounts to an additional ten years over the presumptive 150-month sentence, is the appropriate sentence."

Chauvin gives statement

At the sentencing, prosecutors and the defense made their case for how much time Chauvin should serve. The sentencing was also a chance for those directly affected to tell the judge how the crime changed their life. In his only statement to the court during sentencing, Chauvin declined to speak due to pending federal charges, but he expressed 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 would give you some peace of mind," Chauvin told the Floyd family.

Floyd family gives victim impact statements

Four members of Floyd's family gave victim impact statements at Chauvin's sentencing: his 7-year-old daughter Gianna Floyd, his nephew, Brandon Floyd, and two of his brothers, Terrence Floyd and Philonise Floyd. All members requested the maximum sentence for Chauvin. 

"We don't want to see more slaps on the wrist," Terrence told the court. 

Terrence spoke directly to Chauvin while delivering his statement, telling the court he wanted to ask the former officer why he did what he did. 

"What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck," Terrence asked. "When you knew that he posed no threat anymore, when he was handcuffed, why didn’t you get up? Why you stayed there?" 

Derek Chauvin’s mother speaks on his behalf

Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, spoke at his sentencing on Friday, the first time she has spoken publicly about the case. She told the court her son is a good man. 

"Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man," she said. "He has a big heart and he always has put others before his own." 

In delivering her statement, Pawlenty spoke directly to her son, telling him her happiest moment was giving birth to him and her second happiest was pinning his police badge on him. 

"I always believed in your innocence and I will never waver from that," she told him. 

Motion for new trial denied

Hours before Chauvin’s sentencing on Friday, Cahill denied a motion from defense attorney Eric Nelson for a new trial in the case as well as a motion to hold a hearing into jury misconduct. 

Nelson had cited publicity surrounding the trial and juror misconduct among other things as reasons supporting a new trial. The defense will likely take their arguments to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. 

How Chauvin was sentenced

Second-degree unintentional murder carries a presumptive sentence of 12 1/2 years in prison, according to the state’s sentencing guidelines. However, Judge Peter Cahill said he considered aggravating factors in the case that would warrant a higher sentence. 

In his court ruling last month, Cahill said he found four aggravating factors that supported an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines: Chauvin abused his position of authority as a police officer, Floyd was treated with particular cruelty, Chauvin committed the crime as part of a group and he committed the crime in front of children.

Cahill could have sentenced Chauvin to up to 40 years in prison, the maximum sentence for second-degree unintentional murder. Prosecutors asked for a 30-year sentence, while Chauvin’s defense team wanted probation.

Per state law, Chauvin has to serve two-thirds of his sentence behind bars. The remainder will be spent in some form of supervised release.

Death of George Floyd

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020 after Chauvin pinned him to the ground outside Cup Foods at the intersection of 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis and pressed his knee on his neck even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly cried out that he could not breathe. Two other Minneapolis police officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, helped restrain Floyd, while a third officer, Tou Thao, held back bystanders and kept them from intervening in the over nine-minute-long restraint.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are all charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter for their roles in Floyd’s death. Their state trial will take place in March 2022 after it was delayed to allow a federal case against all four officers, including Chauvin, to go forward. This spring, a federal grand jury indicted Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane on charges they violated Floyd’s civil rights during his deadly arrest last year.

Floyd’s death sparked conversations about race and policing nationwide. As a result, the Justice Department has launched a sweeping civil investigation into the patterns and practices of the Minneapolis Police Department.