Minnesota judge faces wide gap in sentencing requests for Derek Chauvin | Nation
MINNEAPOLIS – More than a year after murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes on the street, former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin will be sentenced on Friday for the crime that shocked the world and hastened the discussions on racial equity and police reform.
Chauvin’s conviction in Hennepin County District Court at 1:30 p.m. will likely be the second time in modern Minnesota history that an officer has been sent to jail for killing a civilian on the job. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill will review the disparate sentences proposed by Chauvin’s attorney and prosecutors – probation against 30 years, respectively – and perhaps offer his first public opinion on the crime before d ‘announce their decision.
“He is seeking a sentence sufficient to penalize Mr. Chauvin but not to destroy him in the name of public sentiment,” said defense lawyer AL Brown, who is not involved in the case. “I think it’s really hard work right now.”
Several local attorneys have predicted the judge will land somewhere between the ages of 20 and 25 and that Chauvin, who also faces pending federal charges in the case, is unlikely to speak during sentencing when given the chance. to go to court.
“I would be very surprised if (Cahill) were over 24, 25,” defense attorney Joe Friedberg said. “I don’t think he’s going to turn 30. It doesn’t feel right.”
Jurors convicted Chauvin, 45, on April 20, of unintentional second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. He will be convicted of second degree murder, carrying a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued in a court filing that Chauvin deserves leniency because he has a strong support network, would be attacked in prison and because he has no criminal history, among other things. reasons.
There is no chance, multiple attorneys said, that Cahill will accept Nelson’s request for probation and time served, or alternatively, his secondary request for a prison sentence lower than recommended by state guidelines. in sentencing. The guidelines provide between 10 1/2 and 15 years in prison for second degree murder for a person with no criminal history. The alleged duration of the offense is 12 1/2 years.
“It’s tough on the defense side,” said Ted Sampsell-Jones, professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. “You want to argue for the lowest sentence you think you can get in practice, but you also need to maintain some credibility.”
Defense attorney and former Ramsey County lawyer Susan Gaertner questioned Nelson’s approach.
“I’m not sure that’s a tactic I would adopt,” she said. “If you want the judge to think about it in a different way than the worst-case scenario, maybe you start with a reasonable compromise to get the judge on board.”
Chauvin’s sentence is likely to be affected by the aggravating factors presented by the prosecution in its case for a harsher sentence. Cahill considered the five factors proposed by the prosecution and decided last month that four were proven and will be considered in sentencing: Chauvin “abused a position of trust and authority” as a officer, he treated Floyd with “special cruelty”, children were present when Floyd was pinned to the sidewalk at 38th and Chicago for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, and he committed the crime along with three fellow officers. Only one aggravating factor is necessary for the judge to deviate upwards.
Several lawyers agreed that Cahill was unlikely to sentence Chauvin to the full 40 years permitted by law. Legal maximum prison sentences are rare and reserved for defendants with a long criminal record.
“The maximum sentences are there to scare the defendants into a theory of deterrence,” Brown said. “The maximum sentences are handed down by politicians in Saint-Paul who want to appear tough on crime, but no one gets the maximum sentence and I don’t expect Mr. Chauvin to get the maximum sentence here.”
Fred Fink, who was a prosecutor for 40 years in Washington and Ramsey counties and Wisconsin, said he had handled 30 to 40 second degree murder cases and had no recollection of having only once had a maximum prison sentence.
“Obviously, with the public visibility (of the case), I think it’s important that (Cahill) make the so-called ‘right’ decision,” Fink said. “… When you consider taking into account the victim and the victim’s family, you necessarily consider a larger community effect” in determining the length of the sentence.
In sentencing, judges look at the facts of the case, legal parameters and a present investigation of the accused who examines his life story and thoughts on the crime. Statements from victims, family members of victims and the accused, who may choose to remain silent, are also considered, along with letters of support from either side.
“Sentencing is the most difficult thing a judge can do because you have a person’s life in front of you that you can impact in so many ways,” said Kevin Burke, District Judge retired from Hennepin County, Minnesota’s longest-serving judge. “It’s an awesome responsibility where you spend a lot of sleepless nights.”
Burke declined to deal with the Chauvin case, but said public pressure did not play as big a role as some might think.
Comments by an accused during sentencing can “make a big difference” to his sentence, Burke said, adding that a person who shows remorse and insight into his actions could potentially convince a judge to shorten sentencing or opting for probation.
While some attorneys have said it might serve the community well to hear from Chauvin on Friday, most predicted he would not speak because of a case pending against him in federal court in Floyd’s death, the Nelson’s motion for a new trial in state court and a possible appeal. Any remarks made by Chauvin could be used against him in the federal lawsuit or in a new state lawsuit if one is granted.
“It might be good if Chauvin has the ability to do it – to let his humanity come out,” said Joseph Daly, professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. “But is he able to present himself in a human way and beg for forgiveness and begging for forgiveness and acknowledge that he made a terrible, terrible decision? I’m not sure all he will say the will help. “
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor apologized on his conviction in 2019 and was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for second degree murder for shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond while he was responding to his appeal to 911 regarding a possible sexual assault in an alleyway.
Sentencing is also an opportunity for judges to free themselves from their objectivity by commenting on the ownership of the accused over his acts, the crime and its impact on the victim and society.
“We’re going to learn more about Judge Cahill than the law,” Brown said of Chauvin’s conviction.