The 46-year-old former police officer Derek Chauvin, already sentenced in first instance to 22 years in prison, was sentenced on appeal on Thursday by the federal justice of the United States, for having asphyxiated George Floyd, in May 2020.
The images had made the rounds of the planet. On May 25, 2020, a white Minneapolis police officer remained kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black American, for nearly ten minutes, indifferent to the interventions of distraught bystanders and the cries of George Floyd, who died shortly after. The perpetrator, police officer Derek Chauvin, was sentenced Thursday to 21 years in prison by the U.S. federal court.
The 46-year-old former officer had already been sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for murder in the state of Minnesota. He had appealed the sentence. The federal sentence for “civil rights violations”, handed down on Thursday, is final as it is the result of a plea agreement.
It can be served concurrently with the other sentence, St. Paul Court Judge Paul Magnuson said, giving him credit for the seven months already spent in custody. “I don’t know why you did it, but placing your knee on someone’s neck until they die is wrong. And for that you must be severely punished,” the magistrate explained to him.
In a short speech to the judges, Derek Chauvin wished George Floyd’s children “success in life”, without apologising or expressing any remorse. His mother Carolyn Pawlenty assured him that he was not a heartless racist, before adding: “All lives matter, no matter what the colour of their skin”, hijacking the slogan Black Lives Matter.
The brother of the deceased, Philonise Floyd, called for the “maximum sentence” against Derek Chauvin, saying he had not slept since the tragedy. At the time, in May 2020, the scene of the arrest and death of George Floyd, filmed and posted online, had triggered huge demonstrations against racism and police violence across the United States.
In the spring of 2021, in a closely watched trial in the Minnesota state court, Chauvin’s lawyer argued that George Floyd died of an overdose, combined with health problems, and claimed that the officer had used justified force. In his admission of guilt, the officer later admitted that he had used excessive force, “knowing it was wrong”, and “without legal justification”. He had also admitted wrongdoing in the abuse of a 14-year-old black teenager in 2017, whom he had held down below his knee for 15 minutes. On Thursday, that young man, John Pope said on the court stand, “I hope he [Derek Chauvin] uses the time in front of him to think about what he could have done differently.”