Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, was on Friday sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.
The sentencing came more than a year after Mr Chauvin was filmed by a bystander as he pressed his knees on the neck of Mr Floyd to the ground for over nine minutes on the street of Minnesota, an action he apparently took to arrest Mr Floyd over allegations that he paid with a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a nearby mall.
Mr Chauvin did not buckle to the urging of bystanders to back down, and he ignored the cries of Mr Floyd who repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.”
Moments later, Mr Floyd died in custody, sparking a wave of protest across the U.S. over police abuse suffered by black people, especially in the United States.
Convicted for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in April, Mr Chauvin’s sentencing, seen as a watershed in America’s history, put some level of closure to arguably one of the most anticipated judgment in country’s history.
During the hearing, Mr Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, prayed for leniency, arguing that Mr Chauvin committed the crime without intent and that jailing him could endanger his life among other inmates.
However, the prosecutor sought a 30-year prison sentence for Mr Chauvin, arguing the 45-year-old former officer’s actions had “traumatized Mr Floyd’s family, the bystanders who watched Mr Floyd die, and the community. And his conduct shocked the nation’s conscience.”
During the hearing, Mr Chauvin spoke briefly, offering condolences to the Floyd family, New York Times reported.
Judge Peter Cahill of Hennepin County District, nonetheless, sentenced Mr Chauvin to 22 years and a half in prison, crediting him with the 199 days he had already served since he was held in custody when the case started.
The sentence was rare in America’s criminal justice system, particularly because it was against a police officer who killed someone in the line of duty, as they get some pass to use force during arrests.
According to a research cited by New York Times and conducted by a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, Philip Stinson, Mr Chauvin is one of 11 police officers who have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings since 2005.
Within this period, the harshest sentence was 40 years, and the lightest sentence being less than seven years. The average sentence has been 21.7 years.
Mr Chauvin’s legal battle is far from over as he is still poised to face criminal charges in a federal court, where he is accused of violating Mr Floyd’s constitutional rights.
Three other officers who were present during Mr Chauvin’s action are also to face state and federal trials on charges of aiding and abetting murder.