MINNEAPOLIS: Former policeman Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in jail Friday (Jun 25) for murdering African American George Floyd, a killing that sparked America's biggest demonstrations for racial justice in decades.
"The sentence is not based on emotion or sympathy," said Judge Peter Cahill, handing down the term at a Minneapolis court after prosecutors sought a 30-year sentence.
Cahill said it was important to recognise the pain of the Floyd family and acknowledged the global notoriety of the case only to say it would not sway him.
"I'm not basing my sentence on public opinion," Cahill said, explaining his reasoning would be laid out in a 22-page memorandum. "I'm not basing it on the attempt to send any messages. The job of a trial court judge is to apply the law to specific facts and to deal with individual cases."
A jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty on Apr 20 of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after a trial that was widely seen as a landmark in the history of US policing.
His sentence was one of the longest ever received by a former police officer for using unlawful deadly force in the United States, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, told reporters.
"Today's sentencing is not justice but it is another moment of real accountability on the road to justice," Ellison said.
Before the sentence was handed down, Floyd's brothers told the court of their anguish, Chauvin's mother insisted on her son's innocence, and Chauvin himself briefly offered condolences to the Floyd family.
The lawyer for George Floyd's family hailed a "historic" step towards racial reconciliation.
"This historic sentence brings the Floyd family and our nation one step closer to healing by delivering closure and accountability," lawyer Ben Crump tweeted.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general's office wrote that Chauvin's crime "shocked the conscience of the Nation."
In a six-page ruling last month, Cahill found that prosecutors had shown there were four aggravating factors that would allow him to hand down a longer prison term than sentencing guidelines would dictate.
The judge agreed that Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority; that he treated Floyd with particular cruelty; that he committed the crime as part of a group with three other officers; and that he committed the murder in front of children.
Through his attorney Eric Nelson, Chauvin had asked in court filings that the judge to sentence him to probation, writing that the murder of Floyd was "best described as an error made in good faith."
Chauvin was helping arrest Floyd on suspicion of using a fake US$20 bill.
He has been held at the state's maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights since his conviction.
Chauvin could leave prison after about 15 years. In Minnesota, convicted people with good behavior spend two-thirds of their sentence in prison and the final third on supervised release.
The three other police officers involved in Floyd's arrest were, like Chauvin, fired the day after. The three are due to face trial next year on charges of aiding and abetting Floyd's murder.