Prosecutors seek higher sentence for Chauvin in Floyd death

Full Screen
1 / 7

FILE - In this April 15, 2021, file image from video, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell speaks as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill discusses motions before the court in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool, File)

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 filed Friday 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 last week of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as the Black man said he couldn't breathe and went motionless.

Even though he was found guilty of three counts, under Minnesota statutes he’ll only be sentenced on the most serious one — second-degree 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 second-degree unintentional murder for someone with no criminal record like Chauvin would be 12 1/2 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 face-down 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.