A judge sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 22-1/2 years in prison on Friday for the murder of George Floyd during an arrest in May 2020, video of which galvanized a national protest movement against racism.
A jury found Chauvin, who is white, guilty on April 20 of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd, a Black man. The verdict was widely seen as a landmark rebuke of the disproportionate use of police force against Black Americans.
Chauvin’s sentence was one of the longest given a former police officer for using unlawful deadly force in the United States, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, told reporters. Successful prosecutions of police officers in such cases have been rare.
“Today’s sentencing is not justice but it is another moment of real accountability on the road to justice,” Ellison said outside the courtroom, calling on law enforcement leaders around the United States to see it as a moment for reform.
At the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden, who has spoken several times with the Floyd family, said the sentence seemed appropriate.
Both Floyd’s brother Rodney and his nephew Brandon Williams criticized the sentence as a “slap on the wrist.”
“We were served a life sentence,” Williams said outside the courthouse. “We can’t get George back.”
Before the sentence was handed down, Floyd’s brothers told the court of their anguish, Chauvin’s mother insisted on her son’s innocence, and Chauvin himself offered condolences to the Floyd family.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said it was important to recognize the pain of the Floyd family.
He acknowledged the global notoriety of the case only to say it would not sway him.
“I’m not basing my sentence on public opinion,” Cahill said. “I’m not basing it on the attempt to send any messages. The job of a trial court judge is to apply the law to specific facts and to deal with individual cases.”
In a 22-page sentencing memorandum, Cahill gave weight to prosecution arguments that Chauvin acted with cruelty and abused his position of authority, aggravating factors that allowed him to give a harsher sentence than would be indicated by state sentencing guidelines for first-time offenders.
The hearing began with prosecutors asking several members of Floyd’s family to address the court. Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter Gianna was first, appearing in a video recording.
“I ask about him all the time,” she said in the video as Chauvin sat before the judge dressed in a grey suit and tie, a blue mask covering his nose and mouth. “My daddy always used to help me brush my teeth.” Asked what she would say to him if she could see him again, she said: “It would be I miss you and I love you.”
Prosecutors had asked for a 30-year prison sentence, double the upper limit indicated in sentencing guidelines.