Former policeman Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison on Friday for the murder of African American George Floyd, the killing that sparked America’s biggest demonstrations for racial justice in decades.
The white, 45-year-old Chauvin gave his “condolences” to the Floyd family in a Minneapolis court, without apologizing, before Judge Peter Cahill handed down a lesser sentence than the 30 years the prosecution had sought.
“This (jail term) is based on your abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd,” Cahill told Chauvin, who listened impassively.
The decision was read out at the end of a tense hearing in which the court watched a recorded message by Floyd’s seven-year-old daughter and heard from Chauvin’s mother.
The Floyd family’s lawyer called the sentencing a “historic” step towards racial reconciliation in the United States. “(It) brings the Floyd family and our nation one step closer to healing by delivering closure and accountability,” Ben Crump tweeted.
President Joe Biden said: “I don’t know all the circumstances that were considered but it seems to me, under the guidelines, that seems to be appropriate.”
After the sentence was announced, chanting marchers with megaphones and motorcycle escorts took over some of the city’s busiest blocks during rush hour. No serious incidents were reported as they wound their way through stopped traffic.
The sentencing was long awaited in Minnesota, with hundreds of people gathering near the courthouse into the evening. Many said Chauvin should have gotten 30 or 40 years.
Chauvin, who has been behind bars since being convicted on three counts of murder and manslaughter two months ago, wore a light gray suit as he learnt his fate following a trial that captivated the world.