Friday June 25th 2021
George Floyd dies
Ex-police officer Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years in prison
He put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. The African American begged him to let him breathe. But Derek Chauvin didn’t let go of him. Well, a good year after the incident, which not only stirred up the United States, the convicted ex-police officer is being sentenced.
In the trial for the killing of the African American George Floyd over a year ago, the responsible US court has imposed a prison sentence of 22 years and six months on the convicted white ex-police officer Derek Chauvin. The court announced the sentence in Minneapolis. For many Americans, Floyd’s fate is representative of structural racism in the United States. His death in 2020 sparked the largest civil rights protests in the United States in decades.
Shortly before Chauvin’s sentence was pronounced, several of Floyd’s relatives spoke up in court and demanded the maximum sentence for the ex-police officer. He mustn’t get away with a black eye, they warned. Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, said, “Our family is forever broken.” Floyd’s brother Philonise said tearfully that he has not had a good night’s sleep since his death because he was plagued by nightmares and seeing his brother’s violent death over and over again. Floyd’s little daughter Gianna said by video message to her father: “I miss you and love you.”
Floyd’s brother Terrence, in turn, addressed Chauvin directly and asked: “What did you think, what was going through your head when you kneeled on my brother’s neck?” He had to fight back tears several times. Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, also expressed herself emotionally and said in a fragile voice that the public only knew a caricature of her son. This is a good person: loving, caring, honorable and selfless. “He has a big heart.” Addressing her son, Pawlenty said: “I have always believed in your innocence and will never turn away from it.”
Chauvin, in a light gray suit and with a face mask, did not reveal any outward movement while he was speaking. He said only briefly, “I would like to express my condolences to the Floyd family,” he said. Due to federal judicial proceedings and a possible appeal, he could not give a full statement at the moment. He had refused to testify in the process. The defense had demanded a suspended sentence for the 45-year-old chauvin, while the public prosecutor’s office had asked for 30 years’ imprisonment. With good conduct, according to experts, Chauvin could be released on probation after two-thirds of the imprisonment that has now been imposed, i.e. after 15 years.
Expectations from the process were immense
Floyd was killed in a brutal police operation in Minneapolis on May 25 last year. Officials arrested the 46-year-old for allegedly paying for a pack of cigarettes with a fake $ 20 bill. Videos of passers-by documented how police officers pushed the unarmed man to the ground. Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for a good nine minutes, while Floyd kept pleading to let him breathe. Floyd passed out and died a little later. The video clips of the scene spread rapidly at that time.
Floyd’s death ravaged the United States, sparking a wave of demonstrations against racism and police violence in the middle of the corona pandemic, which grew into the largest protest movement in decades. The entire trial against Chauvin was broadcast live on many television channels. The expectations of the process were immense. In April, the jury found Chauvin guilty of all charges. The most serious charge was second degree murder without intent. According to German law, this would be more like manslaughter. Chauvin was also charged with third degree murder – and second degree manslaughter. Chauvin had pleaded not guilty.
Despite a three-part guilty verdict, under current Minnesota law, chauvin’s sentence was only imposed on the most serious count. In Minnesota, second degree murder can generally be imprisoned for up to 40 years. In favor of the convicted person, it was taken into account that he had no criminal record. Judge Peter Cahill had, however, recognized the particular gravity of the crime: Chauvin had abused his position of power as a police officer, did not provide first aid and treated Floyd with “particular cruelty” in the presence of children.
“I can not breath”
The case is not ended with the decision on the sentence. Chauvin can appeal. Independently of the Minnesota trial, he has also been charged in federal court. The US Department of Justice said the accused was accused of deliberately depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights. And: In addition to Chauvin, three other ex-police officers involved in the operation against Floyd were charged. You will be on trial in Minneapolis starting March next year. They are charged with aid. They too could face several years’ imprisonment.
The guilty verdict against Chauvin in April had been seen by many as a milestone in the fight against discrimination against African Americans in the USA, even as a kind of turning point in history, a triumph over what many complained about decades of impunity for crimes against blacks . Floyd’s desperate words, “I can’t breathe,” uttered over and over again in his last minutes, have now become a metaphor for racism and police violence against African Americans and other minorities in the United States. Floyd gave injustice a name and a face, but his fate is by no means an isolated one. And even those who cheered the guilty verdict admitted that this was just one step of many to follow in the fight against structural racism.