Prosecutors seek tougher prison sentence for Derek Chauvin

Prosecutors in Minnesota have filed court documents requesting that a judge impose an “aggravated” prison sentence for former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin after a jury found him guilty of murdering George Floyd.

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on 20 April, but under state statutes will be sentenced only under the most serious crime, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

Minnesota sentencing guidelines advise that a prison sentence for a person without any prior criminal history facing a conviction for unintentional second-degree murder be roughly 12 years. A judge must determine that there are certain “aggravating factors” to impose a higher sentence.

State prosecutors led by the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison argue that five factors support a more severe sentence in Chauvin’s case.

In court filings submitted to Hennepin County District Court on Friday, prosecutors argued that Mr Floyd was a “particularly vulnerable victim” as he told officers that he could not breathe 27 times after Chauvin pinned him to the ground and thrust his knee into the back of his neck for nine minutes on 25 May, 2020, including “for almost four minutes after he became non-responsive, and for approximately three minutes after officers knew that he had no pulse.”

Prosecutors also said that Mr Floyd “was treated with particular cruelty” during that time, and that Chauvin abused his position of authority and committed his crimes “as part of a group of three or more persons who all actively participated in the crime”, including three other officers and children.

“Any one of these five aggravating factors would be sufficient on its own to warrant an upward sentencing departure,” prosecutors argued. “Here, all five apply. … The state need only prove the existence of one aggravating factor to justify the imposition of an aggravated sentence.”

In response, Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson argued that Mr Floyd was not particularly vulnerable due to his size and ability to “continue struggling during a portion of his restraint,” according to court documents.

The defence also said Chauvin’s actions were not “particularly cruel” and claimed that there is no evidence that the incident “involved a gratuitous infliction of pain or cruelty“ leading to Mr Floyd’s death.

Chauvin will be sentenced in June.

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