Prosecutors in Minnesota are seeking a stiffer penalty against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the second-degree murder of George Floyd, arguing in court documents that Chauvin abused his authority as a police officer and that Floyd was especially vulnerable during his arrest as he was being held face-down on the ground, under Chauvin's knee, and intoxicated at the time, reports Fox News.
The prosecutors also said Chauvin held his position against Floyd even after officers knew he no longer had a pulse. Further, the brief notes that Chauvin treated Floyd with particular cruelty during the nearly 10 minutes he was being held down, and that he inflected psychological distress to Floyd and to people watching the incident and caused Floyd gratuitous pain.
A jury convicted Chauvin, a white man, on April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes, even while the Black man said he couldn't breathe and stopped moving.
The death prompted protests nationwide in an outcry on racism and police brutality.
Under Minnesota's statutes, Chauvin will only be sentenced on the second-degree murder charge, the most serious of the counts. The charge carries up to 40 years in prison, but experts say that Chauvin, who has no previous criminal record, would more likely be sentenced to 12 ½ years. A judge can sentence a person under similar charges to as little as 10 years and 8 months or up to 15 years and remain within state guidelines.
Judge Peter Cahill, the trial judge, would need to rule that there are "aggravating factors" that would warrant a longer sentence. Legal experts still say Chauvin won't spend more than 30 years behind bars.
Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, says the state has not proven that aggravating factors came into play when the former police officer arrested Floyd on May 25, 2020.
"Mr. Chauvin entered into the officers’ encounter with Mr. Floyd with legal authority to assist in effecting the lawful arrest of an actively resisting criminal suspect," Nelson wrote. "Mr. Chauvin was authorized, under Minnesota law, to use reasonable force to do so."
He also said Floyd wasn't particularly vulnerable, as he was a large man who had been struggling with the police during his arrest, and disagreed that Floyd was treated with particular cruelty because there is no evidence that he suffered any kind of gratuitous pain that would not usually be associated with second-degree murder.
"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," Nelson wrote.
Further, he argued that the state has not proven that the other three officers involved in Floyd's arrest actively participated in the death; they are set to face trial on aiding and abetting charges in August.
Nelson also argued that the presence of children when Floyd was killed was different than what happens in cases when children are unable to leave the scene when witnessing a crime, and he said the state failed to prove Chauvin's role as a police officer was an aggravating factor, as Floyd's struggles showed that Chauvin's authority did not matter to him.
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