Derek Chauvin Trial: Court Finds Aggravating Factors for Sentencing

On May 11, Judge Peter Cahill issued an opinion finding that there are “beyond a reasonable doubt” four  aggravating factors in the killing of George Floyd last year that clear the way to sentence Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis police officer,to a prison term above state guidelines. [1]

These factors are the following: (1) Chauvin “abused a position of trust and authority” as a police officer; (2) he “treated George Floyd with particular cruelty;” (3) children were present when Floyd was pinned to the pavement at 38th and Chicago for more than 9 minutes until he died; and (4) Chauvin committed the crime with “active participation” of others, namely three fellow officers.

Under Minnesota law, even though Chauvin was convicted on all three counts—second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter—he may be sentenced only on the most serious charge (second-degree murder) because all charges stem from one act carried out against one person.  Although second-degree murder has a maximum of sentence of 40 years. the practical maximum, say legal experts, is 30 years even with the above aggravating factors.

These legal conclusions come from a 1981 Minnesota Supreme Court case (State v. Evans), which held that generally when an upward departure is justified “the upper limit will be double the presumptive sentence length,” which for someone like Chauvin with no criminal record would be 12 and ½ years.

Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and an appellate criminal defense attorney, added that with such a maximum sentence, the  first 20 years would be served in prison and the balance on supervised release, if Chauvin qualifies.

The actual sentencing of Chauvin is scheduled for June 25.

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[1] Verdict and Findings of Fact Regarding Aggravated Sentencing Factors, State V. Chauvin, Court fFle No. 27-CR-20-12646, Hennepin County District Court, May 11, 2021), https://www.mncourts.gov/mncourtsgov/media/High-Profile-Cases/27-CR-20-12646/Order05112021.pdf; Walsh, Judge backs most aggravating factors in Chauvin trial, clearing way for longer prison term, StarTribune (May 12, 2021); Ferliti (AP), EXPLAINER: How will judge’s ruling affect Chauvin sentence?, Wash. Post (May 12, 2021); Eligon, Chauvin May Face Longer Sentence Over ‘Cruel’ Actions and Abuse of Power, N.Y. Times (May 12, 2021).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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