“Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty,” Ellison wrote in the 26-page briefing to Hennepin County District Court. He added, “Defendant continued to maintain his position atop Mr. Floyd even as Mr. Floyd cried out that he was in pain, even as Mr. Floyd exclaimed 27 times that he could not breathe, and even as Mr. Floyd said that Defendant’s actions were killing him.”
Chauvin, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25, faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree unintentional murder. Judge Peter Cahill would have to find there were “aggravating factors” in Floyd’s death to go above the 12½-year sentence recommended under state sentencing guidelines for the murder charge of someone without a previous record. Prosecutors did not say in the filing how much time they are seeking Chauvin to serve.
Eric J. Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, is opposing a tougher sentence for his client, saying prosecutors failed to prove the aggravating factors during the trial that would trigger additional prison time. Nelson argued Friday in a separate wrote in his 10-page court filing that “Mr. Chauvin was authorized, under Minnesota law, to use reasonable force” as part of what the attorney described as the arrest of “an actively-resisting criminal suspect.”
The attorney general’s push for a tougher sentence for Chauvin comes months before three other former Minneapolis police officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — are scheduled to head to court in August. The three men face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter. Like Chauvin, they could each face up to 40 years in prison for the aiding and abetting murder charge, but sentencing guidelines could limit the maximum sentence to around 15 years. The state will attempt to add a third-degree murder charge for Thao, Lane and Kueng at a Minnesota Court of Appeals hearing scheduled for this month.
The Star Tribune reported Thursday that federal prosecutors are also planning to indict Chauvin and the three other former officers on civil rights charges.
The filing follows President Biden urging Congress this week to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by the first anniversary of Floyd’s slaying later this month. Biden has pressed lawmakers to bring legislation to his desk by May 25 that would ban chokeholds, prohibit racial and religious profiling, establish a national database to track police misconduct and bar certain no-knock warrants.
Prosecutors argued in the legal briefing that Floyd was “a particularly vulnerable victim,” noting how Chauvin continued to hold his position even after Floyd was unresponsive. They pointed to the cruelty and “gratuitous pain” Chauvin inflicted on not just Floyd but also the bystanders outside Cup Foods last May. The court filing noted that four of the people who watched Floyd die were minors.
“Defendant thus did not just inflict physical pain,” prosecutors wrote. “He caused Mr. Floyd psychological distress during the final moments of his life, leaving Mr. Floyd helpless as he squeezed the last vestiges of life out of Mr. Floyd’s body.”
Ellison and prosecutors pointed to what they say are multiple aggravating factors involved in Floyd’s death that should be considered in sentencing. But Nelson rejected the claim, saying prosecutors did not present evidence that the “particular cruelty” noted went above and beyond the pain usually associated with the second-degree murder charge.
“The assault of Mr. Floyd occurred in the course of a very short time, involved no threats or taunting, such as putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger … and ended when EMS finally responded to officers’ calls,” Nelson wrote.