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Derek Chauvin Sentenced To 22 1/2 Years For Murder Of George Floyd


Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is now serving his sentence of 22 1/2 years for murdering George Floyd. Floyd was killed last year after Chauvin held him under his knee for more than nine minutes. Protests followed as the nation and much of the world struggled to recognize and reject police brutality and racial discrimination. NPR's Cheryl Corley has been following the case and joins us from Minneapolis. Good morning, Cheryl.


FADEL: So, Cheryl, so much of the world, and certainly George Floyd's family, have been waiting 13 months to get here. What was it like in court?

CORLEY: Well, it was pretty emotional. George Floyd's 7-year-old daughter, in a video, talked about how much she missed him. A nephew and brothers talked about how losing Floyd was like a life sentence. And Floyd's brother, Terrence, posed a question directly to Derek Chauvin.


TERRENCE FLOYD: I wanted to know from the man himself, why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother's neck?

CORLEY: Now, Floyd's death has been this catalyst for what's been called a second civil rights movement. And many say Derek Chauvin should've been charged with a hate crime. And Derek Chauvin's mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, defended her son. She spoke on his behalf, saying her son was no racist, but a good man, thoughtful, quiet and selfless.


CAROLYN PAWLENTY: Derek, I want you to know I have always believed in your innocence, and I will never waver from that.

CORLEY: We also heard for the first time from Derek Chauvin, who didn't say much but offered condolences to the Floyd family.

FADEL: So this case is about racial inequity, but it's also about collective outrage, and it's been politicized. So how did the judge acknowledge that?

CORLEY: Well, Judge Peter Cahill went out of his way to really acknowledge the significance of this case and the pain that it's caused for so many, but he was careful to say that wasn't part of his decision. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for killing Floyd, and he faced a sentence that could range from as little as 10 years to a maximum of 40. And in his sentencing memo, Cahill wrote that part of the mission of the Minneapolis Police Department is to give citizens voice and respect. And he said Chauvin, rather than pursuing that mission, treated Floyd without respect, denied him the dignity owed to all human beings and which he certainly would've extended to a friend or neighbor.

FADEL: And what was the reaction to the amount of time that Chauvin will serve, 22 1/2 years?

CORLEY: Yeah. Well, as you can imagine, it's been mixed. Some celebrated the length of the sentence, the fact that it was more than the minimum. However, others, like Bishop Harding Smith, thought it wasn't enough. Smith said Floyd was a friend, volunteered at his church. He said Judge Cahill needed to send a stronger message.

HARDING SMITH: Twenty-two years - he might be out in 15. That's not powerful enough for the way a life was taken, for the way this man was killed, you know, tortured - tortured.

CORLEY: And with good behavior, Chauvin could, in fact, be released after serving 15 years.

FADEL: Now, Chauvin's been sentenced, but his legal battles aren't over, right?

CORLEY: That's very true. He's expected to appeal his conviction and the sentence, but he also faces federal charges that allege, among other things, that he violated Floyd's civil rights. The three other former officers involved in this case also face federal charges, and their state trial is set for early next year.

FADEL: NPR's Cheryl Corley in Minneapolis, thank you for your reporting.

CORLEY: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.