Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose desperate gasps for air beneath the knee of the White officer were captured on a viral video that changed the American conversation on race and justice.
Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, died after Chauvin, who is white, held his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as the dying victim pleaded that he could not breathe. Floyd’s death touched off protests worldwide.
Chauvin, who was fired after the killing and convicted by a jury in April on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, had faced up to 40 years in prison. Under Minnesota law, Chauvin will have to serve two-thirds of his sentence, or 15 years — and he will be eligible for supervised release for the remaining seven and a half years.
Chauvin, in a light gray suit and tie and white shirt, spoke briefly before the sentence was imposed, offering his “condolences to the Floyd family.”
In rendering his sentence, Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill, who oversaw Chauvin’s trial, offered brief remarks, saying it was not the time to be “profound or clever” from the bench.
The Minnesota state judge said he had based the sentence on the facts of the case and not “public opinion.”
“The sentence is not based on his emotion or sympathy. But at the same time, I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family,” Cahill said. “You have our sympathies, and I acknowledge and hear the pain that you’re feeling.”
The killing on May 25, 2020, captured on a gruesome Facebook video, shook the nation and forced a painful reckoning on issues of race and police brutality that continues to play out across a divided America. Chauvin’s conviction, a rarity in a country roiled by multiple high-profile cases of Black people being killed by police, was praised by Floyd’s family and activists as a historic moment of justice and a potential sign of change.