Derek Chauvin sentencing: Minnesota AG Keith Ellison urges court ‘to not go heavy’ to sent a message

Chauvin is set to be sentenced on June 25 and faces a maximum of 40 years behind bars for the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd


                            Derek Chauvin sentencing: Minnesota AG Keith Ellison urges court ‘to not go heavy’ to sent a message
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he sympathized with Derek Chauvin (Getty Images/ Scott Olson/ Ramsey County Sheriff's Office)

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: The Minnesota attorney general has spoken ahead of Derek Chauvin's sentencing, saying he "sympathized" with George Floyd's killer and urged the judge "to not go light or heavy". Chauvin is set to be sentenced on June 25 and faces a maximum of 40 years behind bars for the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. The former Minneapolis officer was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in April.

On Sunday, June 20, Keith Ellison told 60 Minutes that though he felt “gratitude” and “satisfaction” when Chauvin was found guilty, he also sympathized with him. Speaking with Scott Pelley, the AG said, “I spent 16 years as a criminal defense lawyer. So, I will admit, I felt a little bad for the defendant. I think he deserved to be convicted. But he's a human being.”

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He continued, “I'm not in any way wavering from my responsibility. But I hope we never forget that people who are defendants in our criminal justice system, that they're human beings. They're people. I mean, George Floyd was a human being. And so I'm not going to ever forget that everybody in this process is a person.” When Pelley asked him if the judge should award him the maximum sentence in order to send a “message”, Ellison replied, “I think it is important for the Court to not go light or heavy. I don't know if it's right for a judge to send a message through a sentence because the sentence should be tailored to the offense, tailored to the circumstances of the case. Look, the State never wanted revenge against Derek Chauvin. We just wanted accountability.”

A statue of George Floyd is unveiled at Flatbush Junction on June 19, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Mr. Floyds murder, at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, last year fueled a global movement for racial justice. The unveiling of the statue happened just days after Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Chauvin was seen recorded on camera as he knelt on the neck of the African American man for more than nine minutes. Despite Floyd saying, “I can’t breathe”, Chauvin did not show any leniency, which eventually led to his death. The video of the incident went viral, sparking protests all over the country. 

Meanwhile, earlier in June, prosecutors requested Judge Peter Cahill to give Chauvin 30 years in jail. “Defendant's conduct was also particularly cruel,” they said. But the convicted criminal’s attorneys urged for a lighter punishment -- a sentence of time served and probation -- as they said Chauvin was guilty of “an error made in good faith.” On his behalf they said, he’s seeking “a probationary sentence with an incarceration period of time served.”

His attorney Eric Nelson noted that his client “respectfully requests that the court grant him a downward durational departure.” He also feared that apart from the “long-term damage a prison sentence would inflict upon Mr Chauvin's life prospects, given his age, convictions for officer-involved offenses significantly increase the likelihood of him becoming a target in prison.”

Sunlight falls on a portrait of George Floyd at George Floyd Square on June 3, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Early this morning municipal crews worked to remove road blockades and place new barricades around the memorial site, which has been maintained by members of the south Minneapolis community since George Floyd was murdered there last year. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Nelson added that Chauvin “was unaware that he was even committing a crime. In fact, in his mind, he was simply performing his lawful duty in assisting other officers in the arrest of George Floyd. Mr Chauvin's offense is best described as an error made in good faith... not intentional commission of an illegal act.”

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