MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin faces sentencing Friday in the death of George Floyd, with a judge weighing a prison term that could be as much as 40 years.
Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The second-degree murder count, the most serious charge, carries up to 40 years in prison.
On Friday morning, Judge Peter Cahill rejected Chauvin’s request for a new trial, saying defense attorney Eric Nelson has not shown that abused its discretion and denied Chauvin the right to a fair trial.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes on May 25. Floyd was arrested on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store. His death sparked protests and civil unrest in Minneapolis and across the U.S. over police brutality, at points turning violent.
Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, gave emotional testimony at Friday’s sentencing.
“I wanted to know from the man himself: why?” Terrence said. “What were you thinking when you had your knee on my brother’s neck? When he posed no threat.”
Floyd’s other brother, Philonise Floyd, says his life as a trucker was changed forever when George died.
“I haven’t had a real night’s sleep because of the nightmares of hearing my brother plead for his life over and over again,” he told the judge.
George Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, asked the judge on behalf of his family to impose the maximum sentence.
“We don’t want to see no more smacks on the wrist,” Terrence Floyd said.
The racially diverse jury listened to three weeks of evidence filled with countless surveillance videos, emotional testimony and medical experts.
Prosecutors argued that Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd even though he was not resisting, using excessive force in violation of police training, and even when one of the onlookers identified herself as a firefighter and pleaded repeatedly to check Floyd’s pulse, according to witnesses and video.
The defense argued that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s death was not caused by the officer’s knee, as prosecutors contend, but by Floyd’s illegal drug use, heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body.
The prosecution called 11 days worth of witness to the stand whereas the defense only used two days of testimony before resting its case.
Under Minnesota statutes, Chauvin will be sentenced only on the most serious charge of second-degree murder. That’s because all of the charges against him stem from one act, with one victim.
The max for that charge is 40 years, but legal experts have said there’s no way he’ll get that much. Case law dictates the practical maximum Chauvin could face is 30 years — double what the high end of state sentencing guidelines suggest. Anything above that risks being overturned on appeal.
Attorneys on both sides are expected to make brief arguments. Victims or family members of victims can also make statements about how they’ve been affected. Floyd’s family members — including his brother Philonise, his brother Terrence and his nephew Brandon Williams — have said they will give statements in court.
Chauvin can talk if he wants, but it’s not clear if he will. Experts say it could be tricky for Chauvin to talk without implicating himself in a pending federal case accusing him of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Cahill will look at arguments submitted by both sides, as well as victim impact statements, community impact statements, a pre-sentence investigation into Chauvin’s past, and any statement Chauvin might make.
No matter what sentence Chauvin gets, in Minnesota it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds in prison and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole.
That means if Chauvin is sentenced to 30 years, he would likely serve 20 behind bars, as long as he causes no problems in prison. Once on supervised release, he could be sent back to prison if he violates conditions of his parole.
It wasn’t immediately clear where he would serve his time after he is sentenced. The Department of Corrections will place Chauvin after Cahill’s formal sentencing order commits Chauvin to its custody.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.