What’s the maximum penalty that Derek Chauvin could face? How much prison time could Chauvin get? That’s what many people are wondering now that a jury has reached a verdict in the trial of the former Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer.
The jury found Chauvin guilty on all three counts, which means he will likely face the penalty for the most severe charge, second-degree unintentional murder. That charge has a maximum penalty of 40 years, but the sentencing guidelines recommend 12.5 years, according to Bloomberg Law. The judge will be asked to decide whether there are aggravating factors, including that the death occurred in front of a child. The guidelines also look at such things as remorse and whether he has a prior record, which he doesn’t.
The state previously filed a court document indicating prosecutors “will seek an upward-sentencing departure in the above-entitled case.” The state cited at least five grounds for upward departure. In other words, they will ask the judge, Peter Cahill, to go above the 12.5 years recommended in the guidelines. It will ultimately be up to Cahill, whose background spans prosecution work, public defender work, and time in private practice. He’s been on the bench since 2007.
Those five reasons were: That Floyd “was particularly vulnerable because officers had already handcuffed him behind his back and then placed him chest down on the pavement, and Mr. Floyd clearly and repeatedly told the officers he could not breathe”; that Floyd “was treated with particular cruelty”; that Chauvin “abused a position of authority” because he was a police officer; that he committed a crime as a group of “three or more offenders”; and that the crime was committed in the presence of multiple children.
Chauvin’s bail was revoked and Chauvin was remanded into the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff.
Even though the jury found Chauvin guilty of all three charges, he can only be convicted of one.
“The jurors can certainly find all three of the counts and complaints have been proven. And find him guilty of all three. But he couldn’t be convicted of all three. Because you can’t be convicted for multiple crimes arising. If he’s found guilty, likely he would only be convicted of the most serious offense which would be second-degree murder,” Jim McGeeney, a Rochester-based criminal defense attorney, told KTTC on April 16.
KTTC added that former Minnesota police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced in 2019 to 12.5 years in prison for third-degree murder and manslaughter after a jury found him guilty in the shooting death of Justine Damond.
The jury deliberated over the three different charges for only 10.5 hours before reaching a verdict around 3 p.m. on April 20, 2021. To convict on any charge, jurors needed to determine that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by using unreasonable force. According to ABC 7, the jury didn’t need to decide that Chauvin solely caused Floyd’s death, just that his actions were a “substantial causal factor” and that the use of force was not reasonable. The jury was instructed to consider Chauvin’s actions from the standpoint of an “objective officer in his position,” the television station reported.
Chauvin also faces tax charges.
Here are the three charges that Chauvin, 44, faced in the death of George Floyd:
Second-Degree Unintentional Murder, or Felony Murder
This charge means that Chauvin “killed Floyd while committing or trying to commit a felony – in this case, third-degree assault,” according to ABC 7. This doesn’t require intent to kill.
“It is not necessary for the state to prove the defendant had an intent to kill Floyd. But it must prove that the defendant committed, or attempted to commit, the underlying felony,” the judge said, according to USA Today.
The maximum penalty for second-degree murder is 40 years.
This charge is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. It alleges that Chauvin “caused the death of George Floyd by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life,” according to the charging documents.
The maximum sentence for the second-degree manslaughter charge is 10 years. This charge alleges that Chauvin “caused the death of George Floyd by his culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and taking a chance of causing death or great bodily harm to George Floyd.”
How Much Time Will Chauvin Serve?
Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, for a person with no criminal history, each murder charge carries a presumptive sentence of 12.5 years in prison, while manslaughter has a presumptive sentence of four years. Fox NewsNow reported during special coverage of the trial that most people convicted of second-degree murder only get about 12.5 years. That’s true of third-degree murder too. According to Fox, the prosecution has said it would seek enhancements, and it would be up to the judge.
Most people in Minnesota serve two-thirds of their sentence in jail and the remainder on parole, according to Fox, which added that Chauvin could walk free in eight to 10 years even if convicted of the most serious charge.
Chauvin’s Actions Sparked Protests & Riots Throughout the Country
Chauvin is the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer who was seen in a viral video kneeling on the neck of a Black man named George Floyd, sparking unrest throughout the city and outrage throughout the country.
Previously, Chauvin was charged by the Hennepin County Attorney with third-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison added the second-degree murder charge. Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, the other three officers at the scene, are charged by Ellison with unintentional aiding and abetting second-degree murder as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
The amended complaint added new autopsy findings and says that “his condition continued to deteriorate such that force was no longer necessary to control him. The defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Officer Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”
The complaint says that Floyd’s autopsy revealed “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.” Chauvin “had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a prone position is inherently dangerous,” the complaint says. It also says that Chauvin disregarded another officer, Thomas Lane, who asked, “should we roll him on his side?” Chauvin responded, “No, staying put where we got him,” the complaint says.
You can read an extensive interview that Heavy conducted with use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton here. Stoughton said that keeping Floyd in a prone position was the most dangerous aspect he saw in the viral video and said that law enforcement has known about those dangers for decades.
However, on June 1, 2020, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death was homicide, writing that Floyd’s cause of death was: “Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
The medical examiner gave the manner of death as “Homicide,” saying, “Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s).” Other significant conditions were listed as “Arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use.” The new charges came after the medical examiner’s final conclusions.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced Chauvin’s arrest to reporters on May 29, 2020.
“I am here to announce former Derek Chauvin has been charged by the Hennepin County attorney’s office with murder and with manslaughter,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a news conference later that day.
Chauvin was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force. Chauvin, Lane, Thao and Kueng were all fired after a video went viral of the incident. The video shows Chauvin with his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck even as bystanders plead with the officers to help Floyd. Floyd repeatedly says he can’t breathe and then goes silent.
The Complaint Describes Floyd’s Last Agonizing Moments & Indicates Officers Tried in Vain to Get Him Into a Car
The criminal complaint says that a person called 911 on May 25, 2020, and reported that a man “bought merchandise from Cup Foods … with a counterfeit $20 bill.”
Lane and Kueng arrived at 8:08 p.m., according to the complaint. They learned from store personnel that the man “who passed the counterfeit $20 was parked in a car around the corner from the store on 38th Street.”
The officers’ body-worn cameras show that the officers approached the car, with Lake on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger side, the complaint states. Three people were in the car. George Floyd was in the driver’s scene and an adult male and female were also in the vehicle, the complaint says.
The complaint further alleges that as Lane began speaking with Floyd, “he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands.” Floyd put his hands on the steering wheel, so Lane put his gun back in its holster, according to the complaint.
When Kueng was speaking with the front seat passenger, Lane ordered Floyd out of the car and then pulled him out of the car, handcuffing him. “Mr. Floyd actively resisted being handcuffed,” the complaint alleges.
Once handcuffed, Floyd “became compliant” and walked with Lane to the sidewalk, sitting on the ground at Lane’s direction, according to the complaint. Lane asked Floyd for his name and identification and whether he was on anything and explained he was arrested Floyd for passing counterfeit currency, the complaint stated.
Kueng and Lane stood Floyd up and attempted to walk him to their squad car at 8:14 p.m., according to the complaint, but Floyd “stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic.”
That’s when Chauvin and Thao arrived in a separate squad car.
“The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of squad 320 from the driver’s side. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still,” the complaint alleges. “Mr. Floyd is over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.”
While standing outside the car, Floyd began “saying and repeatedly that he could not breathe.” Chauvin went to the passenger side and “tried to get Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and Lane and Kueng assisted,” according to the complaint.
Chauvin “pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m. and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed,” says the complaint.
It alleges that Kueng held Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs, while Chauvin placed his left knee in the area of Floyd’s head and neck. Floyd said, “I can’t breathe” multiple times and repeatedly said, “Mama.”
“The defendant and the other two officers stayed in their positions,” according to the complaint.
The officers said, “You are talking fine,” to Floyd. Lane asked, “should we roll him on his side?” According to the complaint, Chauvin responded, “No, staying put where we got him.”
Lane said, “I am worried about excited delirium or whatever.” Chauvin said, “That’s why we have him on his stomach,” according to the complaint, which added that “none of the three officers moved from their positions.”
The bodycam video shows that Floyd continued to move and breathe but stopped moving at 8:24:24 p.m., according to the complaint.
At 8:25:31 p.m., the video appears to show Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. According to the complaint, Lane said, “I want to roll him on his side.” Kueng checked Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, “I couldn’t find one.” None of the officers moved from their positions.
At 8:27:24 p.m., Chauvin removed his knee from Floyd’s neck. An ambulance arrived and Floyd was placed on a gurney. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Floyd was originally from Houston, Texas. He was known by the nickname “Big Floyd,” his Facebook page says. The Star-Tribune reported that the initial call came in for someone using a counterfeit bill at a store, Cup Foods, at 3759 Chicago Avenue. When police arrived, they believed Floyd matched the description and found him sitting on the hood of his car, according to the newspaper. Two videos have emerged showing earlier moments before Floyd was restrained.
According to KTSP, both Floyd and Chauvin worked security at El Nuevo Rodeo club, according to the building’s former owner, Maya Santamaria. “Chauvin was our off-duty police for almost the entirety of the 17 years that we were open,” Santamaria said to the television station. “They were working together at the same time, it’s just that Chauvin worked outside and the security guards were inside.” She told KTSP that they “overlapped working security on popular music nights within the last year” but she can’t say for sure that they knew each other.
The 10-minute video was posted to Facebook by a bystander. You can watch it above, but be warned that it’s disturbing.
“Please, I can’t breathe. Please man. Please,” Floyd says, his voice anguished.
In the video, Chauvin has his knee on the man’s neck against a squad car, as Floyd continues saying he can’t breathe. There is a second officer standing nearby at the scene and a third next to Chauvin, and bystanders grow increasingly distressed in the video at what they are watching.
“Why you got him down, man. Let him breathe at least, man,” says one bystander to the officers.
Floyd repeats again, several times, “I can’t breathe.” He added, “I can’t move. … My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. Please, please.”
“His nose is bleeding, c’mon now,” says a passerby. “You’ve got your knee on his neck,” says another bystander.
“How long you’ll gotta hold him down?” says a woman. “You can put him in a car,” says a man.
“That’s bulls*** bro. … you’re f****** stopping his breathing,” says a bystander.
People challenged the officer to just put the man in a car. The bystanders call the officer a “bum” and claim he’s stopping Floyd’s breathing.
Partway through the video, Floyd stops talking, but the officer keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck, the video shows.
“He’s not responsive right now,” challenges a bystander.
“Check his pulse,” demands a man.
The second officer, named as Tou Thao, sometimes interacts with the passerby. “Check his pulse. The man ain’t move yet, bro,” demands a bystander.
“He’s not f****** moving. Get off of his f****** neck,” the man yells. “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
“He’s Black. They don’t care,” says a woman.
Paramedics eventually show up with a gurney after Floyd has gone silent for some time.
“The fact you guys aren’t checking his pulse and doing compression if he needs help?” says an upset woman.
“You just really killed that man, bro,” says a man to Chauvin, who appears unemotional and impassive throughout the video.
Only three officers can be seen in the video, one briefly and barely. However, a photo on Twitter from a different angle showed all four officers:
The initial headline on the police press release stated, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.”