United Kingdom

Derek Chauvin sentencing: former police officer faces up to 30 years for killing George Floyd

Derek Chauvin faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced on Friday for the killing of George Floyd, the African American man whose death sparked a global protest movement.

Chauvin, a white former officer, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in April after he was filmed last year kneeling on the neck of Mr Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as he gasped "I can't breathe".

The vital footage of the killing led to intense scrutiny of racism in policing in the US, and across the globe, and Chauvin's case has come to be seen as a watershed moment for police accountability.

The 45-year-old will face the Floyd family in court in Minneapolis once more on Friday, when Judge Peter Cahill hands down his sentence for the most serious of his three convictions, second-degree murder.

Chauvin may offer his own account of his actions in court for the first time, if he chooses to address the judge before the sentence is delivered.

The city has been rocked by mostly peaceful, but sometimes violent, protests demanding police reform since Mr Floyd's fatal arrest by Chauvin and three other officers on May 25 2020.

Those other former officers, J Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Tao, will face trial on separate charges in March 2022.

All four men also face federal charges of violating Floyd's constitutional rights. No date has yet been set for that trial.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators announced on Thursday night that it had reached a tentative agreement on a policing reform bill.

President Joe Biden had promised to pass legislation in the wake of Mr Floyd's death, but talks between Republicans and Democrats on a potential bill broke down earlier this year.

Announcing the progress on Thursday, Republican senator Tim Scott, Democratic senator Cory Booker and Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass said: "Over the next few weeks we look forward to continuing our work toward getting a finalised proposal across the finish line.

Some legal experts have suggested it is unlikely he will do so given his ongoing legal battles, which include further federal charges.  

But Professor Richard Frase, from the University of Minnesota's Law School, said he expected Chauvin to use his opportunity to offer mitigating circumstances.

"At sentencing there's nothing equivalent to cross examination, it's just a chance to tell your story, throw yourself on the mercy of the court, do something to express remorse," he told The Telegraph.

Prof Frase said Chauvin could discuss the dangers other prisoners pose to a former police officer, as well as the impact of being kept in solitary confinement.  

Prosecutors have demanded a 30-year prison term, a significant departure from the 12.5 to 15 years set out in sentencing guidelines, while defence lawyer Eric Nelson has suggested probation.

Last month Judge Cahill indicated that he would impose a higher sentence than the guidelines when he found that the former officer abused his position of authority, treated Mr Floyd with particular cruelty, and committed the crime in front of several children.

"I don't think the judge is going to give 30 years, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gives 25 years," Prof Frase said, adding that the chances the defence's request for probation as well as an appeal of the conviction were "very low".

Members of the Floyd family are expected to deliver victim impact statements during the proceedings.

Anti-police activists have planned to gather outside Hennepin County courthouse in downtown Minneapolis while the sentence is delivered.

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