Legal expert provides insight ahead of Derek Chauvin sentencing

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The sentencing hearing for the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd is set to begin on Friday afternoon.

Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter back in April. The crimes hold a minimum sentence of 12 1/2 years and a maximum sentence of 40 years.

“I think people in America are going to be divided between two camps. One is going to be anything less than the maximum sentence allowable by law — which is 40 years — is not enough,” said Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School professor Jeffrey Swartz. “Then there are going to be those that say Chauvin lived an exemplary life and never violated the law before.”

Swartz says the likelihood that Chauvin gets the minimum sentence is slim because of what’s referred to as “aggravating circumstances.” The aggravating circumstances allow a judge to add additional time to a sentence. In Chauvin’s case, there are four.

“One: that he committed the crime in front of a child, that he acted with particular cruelty, that he acted as a part of a group and that he abused his position as a police officer,” Swartz said of the case.

Swartz says there is one unknown: Whether Chauvin will take the stand.

“Most of the time, those defendants take the stand and apologize for what’s happened, take responsibility for what they did and try to mitigate with the judge that they’re really not a bad person in order to avoid the death penalty. Here, the death penalty not being in play, we’re talking about number of years,” Swartz said.

“Chauvin can take the stand and open his mouth for the first time during all of this. The problem will be he is subject to cross examination by the prosecution and the judge himself can ask him questions about what occurred.”

Swartz says the judge can use Chauvin’s answers and the perceived sincerity of those answers when deciding the time Chauvin spends behind bars.

“He’s probably looking at 25 years. If he gets that 25 years, he’s going to be close to 70 when he gets out of prison,” Swartz added.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. CT.

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