White policeman Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of African-American George Floyd on May 25, 2020. This heavy sentence reflects the global impact of the drama.
The lawyer for the Floyd family, Ben Crump, immediately welcomed a “historic” decision which he said allows relatives of the black forties and the United States “to take one more step towards reconciliation” after thirteen tumultuous months.
Democratic President Joe Biden, elected with the support of the African-American community, hailed a sentence that “seems fair” to him.
It is also extremely rare. Before Derek Chauvin, only a dozen American police officers received prison sentences for murders committed in the line of duty.
After the conviction was announced, protesters armed with loudspeakers and escorted by motorcycles expressed their joy in downtown Minneapolis during rush hour without incident. Several hundred people had previously gathered around the courthouse to await the decision.
Relatives of the deceased, like anti-racist activists, stressed that it would take more than one verdict to bring about substantive changes in the country. “I want you to stand up and fight”, for more equality, launched his brother Philonese Floyd.
Although this case has upset the United States, Judge Peter Cahill has sworn not to have based his decision on “emotion” or “on public opinion”. “I’m not trying to send a message,” he said in a short speech.
In a 22-page document, he motivates his severity by several factors: Derek Chauvin “abused his position of trust and authority”, acted “with great cruelty” and in the presence of children and with help of colleagues, he writes.
For the first time since the tragedy, the 45-year-old policeman, who has become the epitome of police abuse in the United States, spoke publicly on Friday. “Due to pending legal issues, I am not in a position to make a formal statement at this point but, briefly, I would like to offer my condolences to the Floyd family,” he said, without expressing or apologizing. no regrets.
The relatives of the black forty-something had yet asked him for explanations. “What did you have in mind when you knelt on my brother’s neck when you knew he was no threat?” Terrence Floyd launched him in particular, by calling for a “maximum sentence”, that is to say 40 years of imprisonment.
Conversely, Derek Chauvin’s mother had asked for clemency for her son. Contrary to his public image, he has a “good heart”, she assured.
On May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin wanted to arrest George Floyd, suspected of having used a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes. With three colleagues, he had him pinned to the ground and handcuffed, before kneeling on his neck.
The policeman had maintained his pressure for nearly ten minutes, indifferent to the groans of George Floyd and the pleas of distraught passers-by, even once the pulse of the forty-something had become undetectable.
The scene, filmed and uploaded by a young girl, quickly went viral and sparked huge protests around the world.
For his part, the accused’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, insisted that he had contented himself with following the procedures in force in the police force and that the death of George Floyd was due to health problems combined with the drug ingestion.
Jurors were not convinced and took less than ten hours to convict him on April 20. Their decision was greeted with a great sigh of relief in the country which feared it would flare up again if Derek Chauvin emerged free from the hearings.
“In good faith”
Me Nelson, has not changed line of defense. Prior to sentencing, he pleaded that his client had made “a good faith error” and requested a reduced sentence to the time already served. He highlighted the risk that his client, who was imprisoned as soon as the verdict was announced in a high security establishment, would be killed in prison.
In parallel, he sought the annulment of the trial, in part because of doubts about the impartiality of some jurors. On Friday morning, Judge Cahill dismissed his motion, finding that he had “failed to prove” his allegations.
The judicial file will not stop there: the three colleagues of Derek Chauvin will be tried in March 2022 for “complicity in murder” by the justice of Minnesota. In parallel, the four men will face a trial in federal justice which indicted them for “violation of the constitutional rights” of George Floyd.