Some of George Floyd’s relatives tearfully asked the judge to send former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to prison for decades during a sentencing hearing on Friday.
A jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty on April 20 of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after a trial that was widely seen as a landmark in the history of U.S. policing.
Prosecutors asked several members of Floyd’s family to address Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill as the hearing got underway. Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter Gianna began, appearing in a video recording played for the judge.
“I ask about him all the time,” she said in the video as Chauvin sat before the judge dressed in a gray 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 have asked for a 30-year prison sentence, double the upper limit indicated in sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender. Cahill ruled earlier this month that prosecutors have established grounds for giving Chauvin a harsher sentence. Chauvin will be sentenced on the most serious charge for which he was convicted, which carries a statutory maximum of 40 years.
The defense has asked for probation and has sought a retrial ahead of an expected appeal. Chauvin’s lawyer has argued that he was deprived of a fair trial because of prosecutorial and jury misconduct and errors of law at trial.
Cahill denied Chauvin’s request for a new trial in an order on Friday morning.
Video of Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes sparked outrage around the world and the largest protest movement seen in the United States in decades.
Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd addressed Chauvin directly during his victim impact statement on Friday.
“What was going through your head as you had your knee on my brother’s neck?” he asked. He told the judge he wanted the maximum sentence. “We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist. We’ve been through that already.”
Philonise Floyd, another brother, said he was haunted by the videos of Floyd’s death, which were replayed countless times at Chauvin’s trial.
“I haven’t had a real nice sleep because of the nightmares I constantly have hearing my brother plead and beg for his life over and over again,” he told the court.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office wrote that Chauvin’s crime “shocked the conscience of the Nation.”
In a six-page ruling last month, Cahill found that prosecutors had shown there were four aggravating factors that would allow him to hand down a longer prison term than sentencing guidelines would dictate.
The judge agreed that Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority; that he treated Floyd with particular cruelty; that he committed the crime as part of a group with three other officers; and that he committed the murder in front of children.
Through his attorney Eric Nelson, Chauvin has asked the judge to sentence him to probation, writing that the murder of Floyd was “best described as an error made in good faith.”
Chauvin was helping arrest Floyd on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill.
Chauvin, who chose not to testify at his trial, has a right to address the judge before he is sentenced.
Mary Moriarty, Hennepin County’s former chief public defender, said in an interview that the judge may take note that Chauvin did not express remorse in the sentencing memorandum submitted this month by his lawyer.
“I think what Cahill would have been looking for from Chauvin or through his defense counsel is some responsibility for his actions or some empathy for George Floyd,” she said.
Chauvin has been held at the state’s maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights since his conviction.
In Minnesota, convicted people with good behavior spend two-thirds of their sentence in prison and the final third on supervised release.
In 2019, the former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced by a different judge to 12-1/2 years in prison after he was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting an Australian American woman, Justine Damond.
The three other police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were, like Chauvin, fired the day after. The three are due to face trial next year on charges of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen. Editing by Donna Bryson and Grant McCool