Chauvin only got 22.5 years, but that’s just the beginning

On Friday, when he was about to sentence Derek Chauvin, Minnesota Judge Peter Cahill said, “I’m not basing my sentence … on public opinion. I am not basing it on any attempt to send any messages.”


As he spoke my heart sank, because it sounded like he might sentence George Floyd’s killer to 12 and a half years. That would have been within state guidelines for a defendant with no previous record.


So, when the judge sentenced Chauvin to 22-and-a-half years, it wasn’t the 30 years that prosecutors requested. It wasn’t the probation the defense requested.  And though I understand why some are calling it a slap in the face to the Black community, I think there’s more to it than that.


George Floyd’s murder was brutal and heartless, racist and wrong. Grinding your knee into a man’s neck for 9 and a half minutes is cruel. Watching him die while children look on is monstrous. And doing so while staring into a video camera—knowing that the world will see it—is an evil that’s hard to understand. So, Derek Chauvin should have gotten the maximum. And nothing can really justify why he didn’t.


But … his was the longest sentence in recent memory for a police officer killing a Black person. The closest was Michael Slager, who got 20 years after a video showed him shooting Walter Scott in the back and planting a Taser on him. Daniel Pantaleo got no time for the videotaped killing of Eric Garner. Jeronimo Yanez got no time for shooting licensed gun owner Philando Castille. No jail time for the cop who shot Jacob Blake in the back, or the cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, or the cop who shot Michael Brown, or the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.


So no, 22 and a half years is not justice. But with Chauvin still facing federal charges that could give him even more time, it’s a start.
Photo: After the verdict By. Victoria Pickering

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