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Soon: Judge Sentences Derek Chauvin for Murder of George Floyd; Derek Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 years for George Floyd's Murder. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired June 25, 2021 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: The sentencing is for the feelings. And I thought the family did a beautiful job of delivering what it has meant, from the oldest person in the family that had traveled the world speaking out for justice, but that little girl, if the judge has anything written down on a pad of paper, I guarantee you it's about that.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Jennifer let me come to you, the state really focused in on those aggravating factors going through each one that this was a crime of particular cruelty and abuse of a position of trust. The presence of minors and three or more participants speaking specifically about those officers. Did they home in, clearly enough, it will be effective for this judge?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think so, I think so, Victor. I mean this is what they had to do legally in order to allow the judge to go above the 12 and a half year guideline sentence, they want him to go as high as 30 years. And so they had to justify that.
How does what happened fit within the categories -- the legal categories set forth in those four different factors, and I think they did, I mean, particularly the first two. I mean abuse of authority and the cruelty of this particular death. I mean, we all saw the video, I mean over and over and over. There's no real justification for that.
And so, when Eric Nelson, Chauvin's lawyer, talked about all these other second-degree murders and how most of them were guideline sentences, what he didn't really address is how this one was vastly different. And it's different because it fits so well within those four factors. Ten and a half minutes, nine and a half on the neck. This is not your typical second-degree murder case. And that's why prosecutors are saying that he's more than legally justified in going well above the guideline sentence here.
ELIE HONIG, SENIOR CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I keep thinking back to Gianna's statement. Van and I, I guess share that father's instinct. I've done murder cases and trials. I've had victim's families come testify at proceedings like this.
I've never seen a child that young make a statement. Thankfully, they did it by video so she wouldn't be further traumatized. I've never seen a statement quite so poignant and I think touching. And it really points out for me why sentencings are so difficult. Because nobody can ever undo what's been done to the Floyd family here. I think it was Philonise who said, my family will serve a life sentence. This is the best we can do. It's our criminal justice system. It's imperfect but it's what we've got. And we'll see the judge come back and impose whatever sentence he thinks is appropriate soon.
BLACKWELL: Derek Chauvin had the opportunity to say something here -- chose not. He said because of some other elements. That's federal case that is still out there.
HONIG: Yes, he's got a couple concerns. First, he has two federal indictments, right. And by the way, remember this when the mother talks about what a wonderful person he is. Not only has he now been convicted of the murder of George Floyd. He's charged federally with the Floyd murder but also with hitting a 14-year-old in the head with a flashlight. So keep that in mind.
But he's got both of those indictments pending and he's going to want to appeal. He certainly will appeal in this case. And if he gets up there and admits his guilt and acknowledges guilt, that can be used against him. So commonly when someone is convicted at trial like this, you will see them essentially pass on the opportunity to speak.
BLACKWELL: Commissioner Ramsey, specifically on that aggravating factor of the abuse of position of trust which seems uniquely linked to his role as a police officer, the defense tried to use that as one of the mitigating factors to try to get a more lenient sentence.
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, he clearly abused his authority. There's no question about that and certainly the impact statements were all powerful, including Chauvin's mother.
But my personal opinion is he should receive a sentence above the guidelines. To me there is no question about that. What he did was totally inexcusable outside of policy, outside of training, outside the law. You name it. I mean what you witnessed in that video was nothing short of murder in slow motion. I mean, 9 minutes and 30 seconds or so on this man's neck. He was not resisting. There's just simply no excuse. And I think a strong message has to be sent.
I don't think the guidelines, as they are written apply in this case. I do think that there are aggravating circumstances that the judge will take in consideration and hopefully he winds up with a sentence that's more just than just 15 years as a maximum. I mean George Floyd has been sentenced to eternity. And so when you stop and you think about it there's just no comparison.
JONES: Yes, and I think that one thing that one of the family members pointed out, he talked about in the black community, the black culture what we go through. We've seen big time for dinky crimes in our community over and over and over again. Everybody has a cousin, everybody has a neighbor, everybody has somebody they went to high school with, who got big time for some victimless crime around drug possession or something like that.
So this -- you got a community kind of bracing for maybe a sucker punch here. Like a slap on the wrist. You heard over and over again, a slap on the wrist, a slap on the wrist. Why? Because you have as a community, we know what the courts usually do. Much less damage, much less evidence and big time. So small time here is not going to be acceptable.
BLACKWELL: Let's go out to Sara Sidner, she is there at the intersection right in front of Cup Foods. Sara, I was watching at a monitor just outside right at the edge of the set here. People watching the hearing on their phones. What are you hearing from people who are watching this?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'll give you a look. There are people, more and more people are starting to come out here. This has been opened up, you know, over the past few weeks. But they have kept the barriers. They have put them here so that you can see and protect the George Floyd Memorial.
But what we just heard literally a few minutes ago was on the other side of the street, where the gas station used to be which has been turned into a community area. And people where there, they were chanting, they were hugging, they were crying, they were screaming 30 years hoping for the maximum sentence that the family had asked for. And then they kept saying one down, three to go. Their minds are on the next three officers who are facing trial in this particular case.
But they are all here waiting. Some people watching. Most people sort of talking amongst each other about what this year and few months has been like for them. And also just kind of keeping an eye on the square which they do every day, all day long. There's always someone here watching out for the square.
So that's kind of been, you know, the reaction here for a lot of folks is they want to see a penalty that is heavy. They want it to be commensurate with what a regular citizen as Derek Chauvin is, would face in this case. That's kind of what you're hearing from the crowd. Folks have been very calm but every now and then you'll see the emotion come out. You'll see the chanting happen and you'll see the tears flow because many of these folks have been out here the whole time every day in some capacity.
Oftentimes growing plants for example, in the shed over there that's makeshift shed that they built. And you know, taking those out and caring for this place and trying to protect it and keep it from being run over or destroyed, vandalized.
There are, you know, all manner of folks who come out here from all different walks of life from a former professional basketball player to someone who was convicted and went to prison and has changed his life around, to young kids, to 12 and 13-year-olds who come out here and try to help clean up and save some of the mementos that people have brought. But there is a sense right now of anticipation. It's not worry. I
think a lot of people here believe that and hope the sentence will be fair, that will be just. But really what you're seeing is sort of community, you're seeing people come together, be together. Try to understand.
That there is Jay Web. Jay the gardener and he's the one that created the community garden and has kept these plants going here. And so, like I said, all manner of people. Former professional basketball player who played overseas. You will see all manner of folks. There are people coming from all over. I talked to someone from Austin, Texas. You have white families, black families, Latino families. You've got Muslim families coming out here. You've got families from all different walks of life coming out here to pay respects knowing that today is the day of former officer Derek Chauvin's sentencing.
BLACKWELL: Yes, we just -- about ten minutes left in this break that we were told will be 15 minutes until we see Judge Peter Cahill come back. We expect then for Derek Chauvin to be sentenced. Sara Sidner, stand by for us.
Let me come back to you, Jennifer, the defense attorney here, Eric Nelson is asking for probation and that, you know, Derek Chauvin gets timed served. When you ask for probation, do you do your client a disservice by suggesting or asking for something that I think most people would say that is dismissed quite easily. Are you doing a disservice to the client?
RODGERS: Well, it's interesting, Victor, because he asked for probation in the papers and then sort of in a back handed way but really, he was arguing for the guideline sentence here. Because he knows that what you say is true. There's no way this judge is giving him even the low end of the guideline much less probation. So it almost offensive in way. Like really, we went through all of this. We proved all of this, and he's going to get -- talk about a slap on the wrist, right.
Probation, you got to go talk to a guy once a month, your probation officer. You don't go to prison at all for this. That's not going to happen. That's why I think really when he argued to the judge, he backed away from that and instead said guideline sentences are where it should be. That's what the legislature wants. No reference to facts of this case but to the law instead saying guideline sentences is where you should go, judge.
BLACKWELL: Beyond the probation being put aside, even the guidelines, if this judge believed, as he did, he said in May, that these aggravating factors apply. Do we expect anything close to the guidelines?
HONIG: So the aggravating factors under Minnesota law enable the judge to go well beyond the guidelines. In fact Minnesota law says that the judge can double the top of guideline range, and that's 30 years. That's how we got to the prosecutor's recommendation of 30 years on the probation point.
Here's how ridiculous that is. If the judge were to grant probation, Derek Chauvin would walk out a free man today. So that is not happening. And I think that was an insult to the court and a tactical error by Eric Nelson. There's a fine line between zealously representing your client as any lawyer is bound to do and losing all credibility with the court.
BLACKWELL: Commissioner, out to you, we just heard from Sara that the community there is waiting for this sentencing. What does this mean for the law enforcement community if something were to come of a low end of this scale?
RAMSEY: Well, I'm sure that departments across the country are on alert. You don't know what's going to wind up happening. I don't think it will be an issue but you have to be prepared.
I think that following the murder of George Floyd and the demonstrations that really some of them turning violent that took place in different cities, you have to be on alert just in case there's going to be protests that take place as a result of the sentencing. So I think that's pretty much what you'll see, not just in Minneapolis but in other cities as well.
BLACKWELL: And it's interesting that Eric Nelson said that regardless of the sentence that comes down from the judge, that they will be equal parts people who believe that it's too lenient or draconian.
JONES: I don't think equal parts at all. And I think that in terms of the question you ask about what is the message. Why do you put people in prison?
In some ways it's to punish, incapacitate if somebody might do something bad, to rehabilitate but also to deter, to send a message, to tell the next person, you don't want to do this because you're going get that. If you get a slap on the wrist or a rub on the wrist which will be the probation thing, you're not sending a deterrent message. You're sending a green light and I think that's been a big part of the problem for the black community.
Is that when police officers do stuff, you see these videos, nobody goes to jail. They barely get, you know, time off paid. You're sending a green light saying this is OK, this is OK. This is first time that you feel like maybe you're going to finally get a deterrence message, that there is line. If you cross the line, you're going to do big time. Not little time, big time. And so deterrence has to be part of the thing.
HONIG: And if I can add to Van's point. You were saying earlier there's a long, ugly history in this country of black men getting outrageous sentences for minor crimes. Also the data over the years shows there's an enormous disparity based on the race of the victim. And that when you have a black victim, punishment sentences tend to be much lower than when you have a white victim. I think the judge needs to be aware of that too. BLACKWELL: Yes, we heard from Terrence, I believe it was -- no, that
was Philonise, Philonise Floyd in his statement. And he's asking for consecutive sentencing. Not concurrent. Is that likely?
RODGERS: No. No, that's not likely, that's driven by law. And not by the facts of -- the judge won't touch that.
BLACKWELL: How impactful was the statement from Carolyn Pawlenty that's Derek Chauvin's mother. When she came up and spoke, I saw you two look at each other and say, she's coming up. What did you think of that moment?
RODGERS: Well, I was surprised. I really have never seen that before. You typically don't see that sort of testimony on behalf of the defendant. And you know, listen, she's a person. Sentencing is a very solemn thing. It's weighty thing. When you're the judge and going to take away someone's freedom and send that person to prison for much of the rest of their life, that's a powerful and weighty and solemn thing to do.
And she's a human being, you know, just like the defendant is. So you can't help but be touched and sad for her that this is happened to her. But look at what she said, you know, he's innocent. He's not a racist. You know, trying to tell this judge who sat through this trial and saw these facts that the defendant doesn't deserve to be punished, and didn't do anything wrong. It's not going to carry any weight for the judge beyond of course just the, you know, kind of just reinforcing the powerful and solemn moment that's --
BLACKWELL: You have to feel for a mother who is seeing her son now who's going to be sentenced.
JONES: I tell you. You know, I've seen a lot of mothers see their kids go away. They probably had some special hugs too. They probably had some concern too. I haven't seen the people who have been on the side of Derek Chauvin show a lot of concern for those mothers and there are millions of them who sit in those courtrooms and who don't have the support and who shed real tears.
And so for me, I just think that this is showing, I think, people how this thing works. When you have someone saying to a judge who has seen what we all saw, my special hugs I'm going to miss. It's a little bit of tone deafness there. I thought the counsel, I thought the lawyers for Derek Chauvin did a better job of trying to be not so tone deaf. The mom I think made it worse.
BLACKWELL: Go ahead.
HONIG: Yes, that was tough to take. Look, there's undoubtedly enormous human suffering here but the vast majority of it is on the other side of the courtroom.
And you just keep coming back to one of the tragedies of any crime is that the defendants, people around the defendant, the mothers, fathers, friends, they suffer but it's his fault. I mean let's keep it real here. And like I said, the real suffering is on the other side. And again, it's his fault. This is accountability.
JONES: Listen if she had acknowledged the other mother.
JONES: Well, that mother's gone, but she acknowledged the other family, she didn't even do that.
JONES: I thought that was an unforced error on their part. I understand her pain but I thought it made it worse. I want to say also is it is interesting that the country doesn't feel as tense. In other words, there's something about this case, we were bracing for the sucker punch. We were afraid to hope during the trial. Something has happened with this case where you don't feel that tension out there. Because I think people expect justice to be served. And I really hope that it is.
BLACKWELL: You know, it's interesting, Commissioner, that the defense attorney tried to use his 19 years as an officer as a reason that he should get a lesser sentence.
RAMSEY: Well listen, the defense counsel is doing what defense counsel's do. I mean, you know, he's trying to point out the fact he's been a cop for 19 years. Irrespective of the fact he's got other complaints and so forth against him.
And again, you know, even the mother, I don't fault the mother for wanting to protect her son. She loves him. I mean the bottom line is, he should be sentenced. He should get a very severe sentence, in my opinion. What he did was certainly uncalled for. It doesn't matter about his 19 years of service even if it had all been honorable service.
There's no excuse for what he did. This wasn't a situation where you had to make a split second decision or maybe you were fired upon or maybe your partner was fired upon, he had an armed suspect. All those kinds of things. I mean this was just flat out murder that took place. It wasn't reasonable. It wasn't proportional. It wasn't necessary. None of those things. And so when all is said and done, I think he deserves a very harsh sentence. I think actually the prosecution was doing him a favor by just recommending 30 years.
So you know, I just hope that the judge takes all these things in consideration. But ultimately, he does what is needed in this particular case. And I do think it needs to be a message. Because he tainted not only Minneapolis he tainted the entire profession of policing. He became the face of policing. And I resent it. I spent 47 years in this business. And I resent what he did. And I resent the fallout that's resulted from him because I know that is not, that does not represent policing in America. It just doesn't.
BLACKWELL: It is dramatically shifted the conversation about law enforcement in this country. We know there's still on Capitol Hill negotiating over the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. We'll see if they get somewhere on that.
On your screen right now live pictures outside of the courthouse there. Just a moment ago they were chanting Black Lives Matter. I can't see the full scope of the picture there to tell you how many people are there. But they are waiting. We are in a 15-minute break now. It looks like we're coming up close to the end of that. Of course, we'll take you back inside the courtroom when things continue.
Let's go back to Cup Foods, we know that Sara Sidner has been there speaking with people and I understand that you have someone with you -- Sara.
SIDNER: Yes, I do. Sorry about that. We have Eliza. She's known as Eliza the gatekeeper out here. She's here every single day.
Eliza, you just heard Derek Chauvin speak for the first time really in court and say more than, you know, yes or no. What did you think about his comments that he said condolences to the Floyd family and then he said, there's more information that I think will help you be at peace or something in those terms. What do you think of what he said? Did he apologize, in your mind to the Floyd family?
ELIZA WESLEY, CALLED THE GATEKEEPER AT THE CHAUVIN TRIAL: No. I think that's an apologize, I think that he was being sarcastic to the family. First of all, what more of peace of a mind that you can give a family when you have took their own brother's life and you took their brother's life in your hands. You kneeled down on this man with your neck and you rested your hands on this man neck with your knees like you had some vendetta against this man. You had animosity against this man.
You had enough time to think before you did what you did and you cared not to speak. You look like that you had this like here, what you going to do now, nigger? I got you.
Those are the words and the perceives of my eyes looking into your eyes that what you said while you had your knees on his neck.
So what you're saying that you is sorry. You're not sorry. You knew what you was doing. You had animosity --
BLACKWELL: Listen --
WESLEY: -- from day one after the club --
SIDNER: Got you, yes, yes. You are expressing --
BLACKWELL: All right, we're going to come back to the desk here, Sara.
Listen, some you may not like the language that you heard but that isn't a real feeling that people are feeling based on what they watched. Those 9 minutes and 29 seconds and we'll see what the sentence is for Derek Chauvin.
Let me come back to you, Jennifer. The significance of having no criminal history. The crime here, the judge finds particularly cruel here. But when you're working on a point system, explain that how that plays into a role here that he has not committed a crime or been convicted of a crime before now.
RODGERS: So there are really two issues with sentencing. There's the crime itself and the facts of the crime and then there's the history and characteristics of the defendant. And here most importantly, the criminal history of the defendant, which is zero in the case of Derek Chauvin. So that's what ends up kind of going into the pot and leading to the guidelines range that is suggested here, twelve and a half to fifteen years. So it's important in that kind of sets where the boundaries are but here this is all going to be driven by the --
BLACKWELL: All right, I've got to interrupt. We're going back to the courtroom.
JUDGE PETER CAHILL, MINNESOTA 4TH DISTRICT COURT: Well, first of all, I wanted to thank everybody for being here and for providing the input you did, not just the people who were in the courtroom here but also those who provided written statements, both from the Floyd family and the defendant's family. I've read all the impact statements that were submitted earlier and listened carefully at all the input here today. And it is truly appreciated that you took the time to stay with this case and to provide me with input.
I have reviewed the presentence investigation and carefully considered all the facts of the case in the law. But my comments are actually going to be very brief. Because most of it's going to be in writing.
I have a 22-page memorandum that is going to be attached to the sentencing order. And why am I doing it in writing? To emphasize the fact that determining the appropriate sentence in any case and in this case is a legal analysis. It's applying the rule of law to the facts of an individual and specific case. And that is why as opposed to trying to be profound here on the record, I prefer that you read the legal analysis that explains how I determined the sentence in this case.
What case is -- what the sentence is not based on is emotion or sympathy. But at the same time I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family. You have our sympathies. And I acknowledge and hear the pain that you are feeling. I acknowledge the pain not only of those in this courtroom but the Floyd family who are outside this courtroom and other members of the community. It has been painful throughout Hennepin County, throughout the state of Minnesota, and even the country. But most importantly we need to recognize the pain of the Floyd family.
I am not going to attempt to be profound or clever because it's not the appropriate time. I am not basing my sentence also on public opinion. I am not basing it on any attempt to send any messages. A trial court judge -- the job of a trial court judge is to apply the law to specific facts and to deal with individual cases.
And so, Mr. Chauvin, as to count one based on the verdict of the jury finding you guilty of unintentional second-degree murder while committing a felony under Minnesota Statute 609.19 Subdivision 2 (1), it is the judgment of the court that you now stand convicted of that offense.
Pursuant to Minnesota Statute Section 60904 counts two and three will remain unadjudicated as they are lesser offenses of count one.
And the sentence for count one, the court commits you to the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections for a period of 270 months. That's 2-7-0. That is a ten-year addition to the presumptive sentence of 150 months.
This is based on your abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd. You are granted credit for 199 days already served.
Pay the mandatory surcharge of $78 to be paid from prison wages. You're prohibited from possessing firearms, ammunition, or explosives for the remainder of your life.
Provide a DNA sample as required by law. Register as a predatory offender as required by law, and you will receive a copy of the order and also the attached memorandum explaining the court's analysis. Anything further from the state?
JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: Your honor, if this needs to be said, we just ask that it be executed forthwith.
CAHILL: Defendant is remanded to the custody of the sheriff to be transported back to the DOC or whichever custody is currently holding him. Anything from the defense?
ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: No, your honor.
UNIDENTIFIED COURT OFFICER: All right. Thank you. We are adjourned.
BLACKWELL: Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to 22-1/2 for the murder of George Floyd. Will serve 15 years of that because you serve two- thirds of the time sentenced. Let's get reaction starting with you, Elie Honig.
HONIG: Justice is imperfect. This is a serious sentence. Derek Chauvin will be in prison 15 years. He's 45 now, until he's 60. That said, I think this is light. I think the judge should've sentenced him more. Minnesota guidelines say you can double the 15 years if there is one aggravator this judge found four aggravators and didn't really come super close to doubling it.
BLACKWELL: Van. JONES: Very disappointing, very disappointing, 15 years. I know people doing 15 years for nothing. I mean for victimless crimes of drug possession. Very disappointing the level of -- any one of those aggravators. What this man did, there should've been the maximum of the maximum and this is disappointing. I don't think it's going to cause outrage. But it's a punch in the gut.
This guy's life is worth more than 15 years, it was. And what that officer did is worth more than 15 years. And law enforcement across the country should look at something like this and say, look, you can't do this type of stuff, you're never going to come back home. It's disappointing.
RODGERS: Yes, I mean the sentence isn't 15 years though the sentence is 22-1/2 years. So the two thirds is good behavior. You know, that's a legal matter. The judge legally can't consider that when imposing sentence, right. He's got impose a sentence that he feels is appropriate and that sentence was 22-1/2 years. That said, I do think also that it was light, like you all do, 30 years would have been better.
BLACKWELL: Let's Commissioner Ramsey's response? 22-1/2 years, your reaction.
RAMSEY: I thought it would be somewhere in between 25 and 30 is really what I kind of thought it would wind up being. It's 22 -1/2. That's the judge's decision. Like everything else, you live with it.
But as far as messages go, 22-1/2 years, if you're the one that has to do it is a lot of time. And so, I think it's very clear that, you know, it's a new day now. I mean police officers are going to be held accountable. And that's important and ought to be held accountable.
This particular case is one of those -- that I mean, it was just so egregious. There's no way you can justify it in any manner, shape, or form, in my opinion. A little disappointing, but again, that's the judge's decision. He made the decision. You live with it.
BLACKWELL: Elie, let me -- on this 22-page memo explaining this. Is that typical?
HONIG: Yes, judges in big cases will issue a memo explaining their exact reasoning. One thing to keep in mind. Still two federal indictments pending against Derek Chauvin, right. One for George Floyd and one for the 14-year-old he assaulted with a flashlight. That time can be more than this or it can be what we call consecutive. Especially for the 14-year-old because that's a separate incident, meaning it can run back-to-back. So it's not over yet for Derek Chauvin.
JONES: I was going to say that you have Vanita Gupta, you've got Kristen Clarke, you've got other people at the Department of Justice looking at this. The feds can come in and do more and they should do more because this is not justice. BLACKWELL: In live pictures outside of the courthouse here, reaction
to what we just heard, 22-1/2 years for Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Looks like they're praying there.
Jennifer Rodgers, last word to you. The impact of what we heard today, those families saying that they -- we heard from Philonise Floyd saying that we have the life sentence. Regardless of the sentence for Derek Chauvin, they have the life sentence.
RODGERS: Yes, I mean there's never any end for those families. I mean their loved one has been taken away. So you know, you hope that they are happy with the result in some way. But, you know, it doesn't solve the problem for them.
BLACKWELL: Yes, all right, our coverage of course will continue. Again, the breaking news, Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer has now been sentenced to 22.5 years for the murder of George Floyd.
Our coverage continues now with Jake Tapper.