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‘Slap on the wrist’: George Floyd family dismayed at Chauvin’s punishment

Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, becomes emotional while giving a victim impact statement, June 25, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis

George Floyd’s family is disappointed with the 22-1/2-year sentence issued for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who murdered the African American during an arrest last May.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Chauvin, who is white, to 22 years and six months in prison on Friday for the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the video of which sparked a nationwide protest movement against racism and police brutality in the United States.

Under Minnesota law, Chauvin will have to serve two-thirds of his sentence, or 15 years, before he is eligible for supervised release.

The verdict was seen by some as a landmark rebuke of the disproportionate use of police force against African Americans, but the Floyd family, who had expected a maximum sentence for Chauvin, was less than satisfied.

Philonise Floyd, one of George Floyd’s brothers, said Friday that the sentencing amounted to a “slap on the wrist.”

“My brother, he's dead, I will never get to see him again,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. “We will always have empty seats at the house that he should be sitting in. That was our loved one, we cherished him. No matter how anybody else felt about him, we loved him.”

Philonese Floyd pointed out that the now-viral video of the moments leading up to George Floyd's death last May “clearly showed that he (Chauvin) had his knee on my brother's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.”

“Consequences, they vary, but for us just to get some time, even though it was a slap on the wrist, we still have to appreciate, because we didn't have to get anything,” he added.

Some legal experts, however, had predicted a much shorter sentence for Chauvin, whom a jury had found guilty on April 20 of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd.

'Not justice' 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, acknowledged that the punishment was “one of the longest a former police officer has ever received for an unlawful use of deadly force.”

“Today's sentencing is not justice but it is another moment of real accountability on the road to justice,” Ellison said outside the courtroom.

Prosecutors had asked for a 30-year prison sentence for Chauvin, double the upper limit indicated in sentencing guidelines.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Floyd family, also said on Friday that the punishment handed down to Chauvin “represents an opportunity for America to have a turning point.”

However, he added that “our journey to justice will end” when “Black men and Black women and people of color don't have to fear being killed by the police because of the color of their skin.”  

Reacting to the sentencing, US President Joe Biden said the punishment for Chauvin seemed “appropriate.”

“I don’t know all the circumstances that were considered but it seems to me, under the guidelines, that seems to be appropriate,” Biden told reporters on Friday afternoon.

“We can’t leave this moment or look away thinking our work is done,” he said in remarks from the White House. “We have to listen, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words. We can’t let those words die with him.”

The president’s remarks were an apparent call for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would overhaul how policing is carried out in the United States.


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