While some heaved a sigh of relief when Derek Chauvin was found guilty, legal observers are expressing concerns over the conduct of the US judicial branch in two cases related to the excessive use of force by the US police: the George Floyd case and that of Ashli Babbitt.
On 20 April, jurors declared former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was accused of killing George Floyd, a 46-year old African American, on 25 May 2020, guilty on all three charges, namely second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The jury’s verdict prompted a heated debate with some legal observers referring to the unusual agitation surrounding the case. Minneapolis was engulfed by protests as jurors deliberated the verdict; President Joe Biden announced that he was “praying” for the “right verdict,” which the press interpreted as “guilty.” Earlier, Congresswoman Maxine Waters urged the Minneapolis demonstrators to become “more confrontational” if the ex-cop was let off the hook, while unidentified vandals smeared the former Santa Rosa home of Barry Brodd with blood – he testified as a defence witness in the trial.
Commenting on the fuss around the case, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz denounced the intimidation tactics as “borrowed precisely from the Ku Klux Klan of the 1930s and 1920s.”
On Monday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who wis overseeing the Chauvin trial, criticised Waters’ remarks, telling defence lawyer Eric Nelson that he could refer to them in an “appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function,” Cahill said.
Chauvin is expected to be sentenced in about eight weeks. The former Minneapolis police officer is facing up to 40 years in prison under second-degree murder; up to 25 years for third-degree murder; and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
These sentences would run in parallel with each other, not consecutively, which means that Chauvin’s maximum sentence technically amounts to 40 years. However, having no prior criminal record he is likely to get 10.5 years in prison unless the judge applies aggravating factors. The prosecution has already asked for a tougher sentence than the Minnesota sentencing guidelines provide.