San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Prosecutors seek higher sentence in Floyd’s death
MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors are asking a judge to give Derek Chauvin a more severe penalty than state guidelines call for when he is sentenced in June for George Floyd’s death, arguing in court documents that Floyd was particularly vulnerable and that Chauvin abused his authority as a police officer.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson is opposing a tougher sentence, saying the state has failed to prove that those aggravating factors, among others, existed when Chauvin arrested Floyd on May 25.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted April 20 of seconddegree unintentional murder, thirddegree murder and seconddegree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for 9½ minutes as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe and became motionless.
Even though he was found guilty of three counts, under Minnesota statutes he’ll only be sentenced on the most serious one — seconddegree murder. While that count carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, experts say he won’t get that much.
Prosecutors did not specify how much time they would seek for Chauvin.
Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, the presumptive sentence for seconddegree unintentional murder for someone with no criminal record like Chauvin would be 12½ years. Judges can sentence someone to as little as 10 years and eight months or as much as 15 years and still be within the advisory guideline range. To go above that,
Judge Peter Cahill would have to find that there were “aggravating factors,” and even if those are found, legal experts have said Chauvin would likely not face more than 30 years.
In legal briefs filed Friday, prosecutors said Chauvin should be sentenced above the guideline range because Floyd was particularly vulnerable with his hands cuffed behind his back as he was facedown on the ground, and that he was intoxicated. They noted that Chauvin held his position even after Floyd became unresponsive and officers knew he had no pulse.
Prosecutors also said Chauvin treated Floyd with particular cruelty during the lengthy restraint, saying Chauvin inflicted gratuitous pain and caused psychological distress to Floyd and to bystanders.
Cahill has said he will review the attorneys’ written arguments before determining whether aggravating factors exist that would warrant a tougher sentence.