A Minnesota judge has ruled that aggravating factors were involved in the death of George Floyd, opening the possibility of a longer sentence for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin, a white former officer convicted in a Minnesota state court of murdering Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, during an arrest last May, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.
In a six-page ruling dated Tuesday, District Court Judge Peter Cahill found that prosecutors had proven Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority, treated Floyd with particular cruelty, committed the crime as a group and did so with children present, all aggravating factors.
“The slow death of George Floyd occurring over approximately six minutes of his positional asphyxia was particularly cruel in that Mr Floyd was begging for his life and obviously terrified by the knowledge that he was likely to die but during which the defendant objectively remained indifferent to Mr Floyd’s pleas,” Cahill wrote.
A jury convicted Chauvin, 45, of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter on April 20 after hearing three weeks of testimony in a highly publicised trial.
Floyd’s death after he was handcuffed on a Minneapolis street with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes prompted massive protests against racism and police brutality in many US cities and other countries.
Three other former officers who were at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death and are set to go on trial on August 23.
Cahill, who presided over the trial, will also sentence Chauvin, who technically faces a combined maximum 75 years in prison if the sentences run consecutively.
State guidelines, however, give judges leeway to impose sentences that are far less harsh.
Prosecutors on April 30 asked Cahill to consider several aggravating circumstances in Floyd’s death so that he could make “an upward sentencing departure” in the case.
While Cahill accepted most of the prosecutors’ arguments that aggravating circumstances were present, he rejected one of them, finding that they had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Floyd was “particularly vulnerable”.
Also pending before Cahill is a May 4 request for a new trial in which Chauvin’s lawyer argued that his client was deprived of a fair trial because of prosecutorial and jury misconduct, errors of law at trial and that the verdict was contrary to the law.