Minnesota's attorney general has requested a severe sentence for former police officer Derek Chauvin for acting with "particular cruelty" in the death of George Floyd.
State Attorney General Keith Ellison asked Judge Peter Cahill to hand down a harsher sentence based on "five aggravating factors" that "support an upward sentencing departure," in a legal brief filed Friday.
Chauvin was found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on April 20 for the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. His sentencing has been scheduled for June 25.
Chauvin will be sentenced on second-degree murder because, per state law, it's the single most serious charge. But, Minnesota sentencing guidelines suggest Chauvin's more likely to receive up to 15 years, based on his lack of a prior criminal record.
Ellison outlined five reasons for aggravated factors to be considered for a higher sentence: Floyd was a "particularly vulnerable victim" based on his prone position on the ground that posed a "significant risk of positional asphyxia," he was treated with cruelty and officers didn't listen to his cries for air, Chauvin "abused his position of authority," and Chauvin "committed the crime as part of a group of three or more persons who all actively participated in the crime."
Lastly, four of the individuals who witnessed Floyd's death were minors, with one just 9-years old at the time, the court filing stated.
"Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty . . . Defendant continued to maintain his position atop Mr. Floyd even as Mr. Floyd cried out that he was in pain, even as Mr. Floyd exclaimed 27 times that he could not breathe, and even as Mr. Floyd said that Defendant's actions were killing him," Ellison wrote.
Ellison pointed out that Floyd called out for his mother almost a dozen times and yet Chauvin "continued to press his knee into Mr. Floyd's neck and upper back until he was no longer speaking or breathing, and until he no longer had a pulse."
"Defendant thus did not just inflict physical pain. He caused Mr. Floyd psychological distress during the final moments of his life, leaving Mr. Floyd helpless as he squeezed the last vestiges of life out of Mr. Floyd's body," Ellison added.
He argued that any one of the five aggravating factors would be enough to warrant an upward sentencing departure, and in this case "all five apply."
Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson responded opposing a harsher sentence in a separate filing Friday.
Nelson argued that Chauvin had "legal authority" in the officers' encounter with Floyd and he was authorized under Minnesota law to "use reasonable force."
He also disputed the argument that Floyd was "particularly vulnerable", noting that he is over six feet fall, muscular and weighed over 200 pounds and despite being handcuffed, he "began to actively resist arrest" when Officers Thomas K. Lane and J Alexander Kueng attempted to put him in their squad car.
Nelson also countered the state's case that Chauvin "inflicted gratuitous pain" upon Floyd, saying, "The assault of Mr. Floyd occurred in the course of a very short time, involved no threats or taunting, such as putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger … and ended when EMS finally responded to officers' calls."