Legal News

State, Defense Fight Over Whether Derek Chauvin Acted with’Specific Cruelty’ in Fight to Discover Proper Sentence

Derek Chauvin

Minnesota prosecutors are pressing on a judge to issue an”aggravated sentence” from Derek Chauvin. But his defense has cautioned that the state is stretching the law by looking for a tougher sentence for its now-convicted former police officer.

In papers filed Friday, prosecutors used by and working with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office named five variables that they consider support a higher than usual sentence. Those details are (1) that sufferer George Floyd”was an especially vulnerable victim,” (2) which Floyd”was medicated with particular cruelty,” (3) which Chauvin”abused his position of authority,” (4) which Chauvin acted as a part of”a group of 3 or more men that all actively participated” (which can be relevant under Minnesota law); and (5) who Chauvin”committed the crime in the presence of numerous kids.”
“Any one of those five crucial factors could be sufficient on its own to justify an upward sentencing departure,” prosecutors argued. “Here, all five apply. The State therefore respectfully asks that the Court find the details required to support the presence of those five significant factors, which the Court impose an aggravated sentence on such basis.”
Concerning the first factor, prosecutors contended as followed:
Defendant’s criminal behavior occurred while Mr. Floyd was in a vulnerable place on the floor: The evidence at trial showed that the officers attempted Mr. Floyd’s wrists behind his back and held him down in the prone position, with his chest against the pavement. Defendant was educated that this place posed a significant risk of positional asphyxia.
As to the second factor alleging”special cruelty”:
Despite Mr. Floyd’s repeated pleas that he couldn’t breathe, and despite the repeated pleas of bystanders on the scene, even Defendant pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck and upper back for about nine minutes and 29 minutes. As noted, Defendant claimed that position–again, for a couple of minutes, not moments –after Mr. Floyd went quiet, and even after officials understood that Mr. Floyd no longer had a heartbeat. Mr. Floyd also continued substantial facial abrasions and bruising because of being pressed forcibly into the pavement. Defendant’s actions inflicted gratuitous pain, also caused emotional distress into Mr. Floyd as well as the bystanders. Moreover, despite Mr. Floyd’s obvious signs of health distress, and despite Defendant’s training, Defendant made no attempt to perform CPR or contribute Mr. Floyd medical attention, and discouraged others around the scene by supplying Mr. Floyd with medical attention.
The court documents do not request a particular term of years to get Chauvin’s sentence.
The Defense’s Argument
The defense countered that all of those variables that the country is pressing are inside the statute; the next — which Chauvin abused his jurisdiction — is not. The defense said Chauvin waived his right to have the variables established by a jury,”as is his prerogative, leaving it to the Court to determine whether the State has met its burden”
“Mr. Chauvin entered into the officers’ encounter with Mr. Floyd with legal authority to help in effecting the legal arrest of an actively-resisting criminal defendant,” the defense lasted. “Mr. Chauvin has been authorized, under Minnesota lawenforcement, to use reasonable force to do so. Early in the encounter with Mr. Floyd, officers had called for emergency health care services (“EMS”). The telephone to EMS was upgraded after Mr. Chauvin’s coming on scene. The entire period of time where the crime of conviction was committed was a matter of moments — perhaps as little as three, but surely less than half an hour.”
The defense subsequently said Floyd was not”especially vulnerable”:
Facts establishing that a victim was especially vulnerable, which the offender knew or must have known about the vulnerability, should be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, the State seems to argue that the fact that Mr. Floyd was handcuffed rendered him especially vulnerable. The facts clearly show that only being handcuffed did not render Mr. Floyd”particularly vulnerable”
Mr. Floyd was well over six feet tall, muscle, also weighed in more than two hundred pounds. He was handcuffed at the start of the encounter and, like Officers Lane and Kueng tried to place Floyd in their squad car, he began to consciously resist arrest. Once Mr. Chauvin united in the struggle, Mr. Floyd still managed to stop himself from being subdued until officers were eventually able to control him on the floor, in which he continued to struggle. He was on the floor to get a total of around nine minutes before EMS arrived. Floyd was able to continue struggling during some of his restraint.
The factual scenario is considerably different from several other cases in Minnesota law where a victim was shown to be especially vulnerable when jumped.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, proceeded to argue that Chauvin was not”especially unkind” toward Floyd. He mentioned other cases which did locate”particular cruelty” but that were factually distinct from Chauvin’s case on the following grounds:
In these situations, the witnesses of these defendants’ behavior either endured in an Icelandic incapacity, which makes them especially vulnerable, or have been closely linked to the sufferer as both relatives or family members.
[ … ]
Here, none of the witnesses were friends or relatives of George Floyd, nor did some of those witnesses claim to understand George Floyd. Importantly, none of the witnesses’ monitoring of the episode was involuntary, unlike individuals in relevant caselaw: ” They were all free — and in actuality, encouraged by Officer Thao — to leave anytime they desired.
The defense further afield the state’s other arguments by arguing, in part, that the state can’t establish beyond a reasonable doubt that others”actively participated” in the crime since the 3 other officers — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao — have been convicted.
The most recent debate for an upward sentencing death — which isa sentence higher than that considered by the typical grid utilized by Minnesota judges — are, basically, an extension of court documents filed beginning annually. The state filed notice on August 28, 2020, that it might look for a tougher sentence.
Does It Really Matter?
The normal grid for Chauvin’s very best count, accidental second-degree murder for a defendant with no criminal history, is 150 weeks (12.5 years). However, the true second-degree murder statute authorizes a sentence of around 40 years.
With this count, the Treaty calls for the identical possible sentence as second-degree murder (12.5 years), but the statutory maximum is 25 years.
Eventually, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree manslaughter. Sentencing guidelines call for a Flat 8 sentence of four years, but the statute authorizes around ten years.
Read the prosecution discussions below:

Read the defense rebuttal below:

[Editor’s note: Legal citations are omitted from some quotations.]

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