Chauvin now faces up to double the sentencing guideline of 15 years, for up to 30 years.
Derek Chauvin is facing up to 40 years in prison on the 2nd Degree Murder charge of which he was convicted (along with 3rd Degree Murder and 2nd Degree Manslaughter).
But under sentencing guidelines, and absent an enhancement, he likely would be sentenced to less than half that amount:
For second-degree unintentional murder, guidelines say the presumptive sentence for someone with no criminal record like Chauvin would be 12 1/2 years. Judges can sentence someone to as little as 10 years and eight months or as much as 15 years and still be within the advisory guideline range.
The prosecution filed a motion to enhance sentencing, something we covered in Chauvin Post-Trial Sentencing: What to Expect. Chauvin opted to have the judge, not the jury, decide the issue.
The Judge just ruled in a six-page Order (pdf.) finding 4 of the 5 possible factors raised by the prosecution (the prosecution did not seek enhancement for discriminatory intent):
“1. Defendant abused a position of trust and authority” because he was a police officer who used excessive force, ignored and failed to render medical care, and violated training standards:
“Defendant’s placement of his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck was an egregious abuse of the authority to subdue and restrain because the prolonged use of this maneuver was employed after George Floyd had already been handcuffed and continued for more than four and a half minutes after Mr. Floyd had ceased talking and had become unresponsive.”
“2. Defendant treated George Floyd with particular cruelty” for the reasons stated as to factor No. 1, plus:
“b. It was particularly cruel to kill George Floyd slowly by preventing his ability to breathe when Mr. Floyd had already made it clear he was having trouble breathing.
c. 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.
d. Restraining an individual in the prone position against the hard street surface by kneeling on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck with his other knee in Mr. Floyd’s back, all the while holding his handcuffed arms in the fashion Defendant did for more than nine minutes and forty seconds is by itself a particularly cruel act.
e. The prolonged nature of the asphyxiation was by itself particularly cruel.”
“3. Children were present during the commission of the offense” being bystanders on the sidewalk during the arrest and restraint.
“4. Defendant committed the crime as a group with the active participation of at least
three other persons” being the other officers who have been separately charged:
“b. No finding is made as to whether the active participation of Officers Lane, Kueng and Thao was accompanied by the intent and aknowledge necessary to establish that they are “offenders” subject to criminal liability under Minn. Stat. § 609.05.”
The following factors were not found to be applicable:
“5. The victim was particularly vulnerable.”
“a. Although George Floyd was handcuffed, he had still been able to resist arrest and to prevent three police officers from seating him in a squad car before he was placed in the prone position, so that, by itself, did not create a particular vulnerability.
b. In this case, Mr. Floyd’s drug intoxication did not render him particularly vulnerable compared to other victims of murder.
c. Restraining George Floyd in the prone position with the weight of three police officers on him for a prolonged period did not create a vulnerability that was exploited to cause death; it was the actual mechanism causing death.”
Given the enhancing factors, what’s the likely maximum sentence?
Experts say the max will be 30 years — double the high end of the guideline range. If Judge Peter Cahill were to sentence Chauvin to anything above that, he risks having his decision reversed on appeal.
Mark Osler, a professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, said the Minnesota Supreme Court set a standard maximum for upward departures in the 1981 State v. Evans case, finding that generally, when an upward departure is justified, “the upper limit will be double the presumptive sentence length.”
The court stressed that doubling the guideline range is only an upper limit and shouldn’t be automatic. The justices also left room for the rare case in which a judge would be justified in going even higher. Mitchell Hamline law professor Ted Sampsell-Jones said last year’s State v. Barthman opinion reaffirmed the Evans rule and “sent a signal” that sentences exceeding a doubling of guidelines “should be in fact extremely rare” and almost never happen.
I’m guessing 30 years also, though I won’t be shocked if the Judge finds a way to enhance it even more. With credit for good behavior, Chauvin’s facing at least 20 years served in state prison.DONATE
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