The judge in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial ruled there are “beyond a reasonable doubt” aggravating factors in the killing of George Floyd that could mean the former Minneapolis police officer can be sentenced to a prison term above state guidelines.
The factors are that Chauvin “abused a position of trust and authority,” “treated George Floyd with particular cruelty,” and that he committed the crime with children present and with the “active participation” of others.
Because Cahill ruled the aggravating factors should be applied during the sentencing, Chauvin could receive a maximum sentence of 30 years, according to Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and an appellate criminal defense attorney.
Chauvin was accused of killing George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
During Floyd’s arrest, Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes until Floyd became unconscious. Floyd died later that same day.
Video of the incident, which was taken by a bystander, circulated widely and sparked racial justice protests across the nation last summer.
Chauvin was convicted on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter last month.
When considering Chauvin’s abuse of trust and authority and his treatment of Floyd, Cahill pointed to Chauvin holding Floyd to the ground handcuffed for “an inordinate amount of time” while knowing asphyxiation was possible.
“The prolonged use of this technique was particularly egregious in that George Floyd made it clear he was unable to breathe and expressed the view that he was dying as a result of the officers’ restraint,” Cahill said, according to the StarTribune.
“The slow death of George Floyd occurring over approximately six minutes of his positional asphyxia was particularly cruel in that Mr. Floyd was begging for his life and obviously terrified by the knowledge that he was likely to die but during which the Defendant objectively remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s pleas.”
The abuse of authority factor took up a large part of Cahill’s over five-page filing.
A law professor at the University of Minnesota said Cahill likely wanted to send a message to police officers.
“He wants to send a signal to other officers that if you want to do anything like this, look at what I did to Chauvin [at sentencing],” Professor David Schultz told the StarTribune.
Schultz added the ruling “pretty much mirrored what the prosecution had been presenting throughout the trial.”
“At the end of the day, it’s clear that had he been the trier of fact, he would have reached the same conclusion as to a finding of guilt,” he said.
In his filing, Cahill said any reference to former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao establishes “no finding [by the court] that they are ‘offenders’ subject to criminal liability.”
The three ex-officers face allegations of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and will be tried on Aug. 23
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