WASHINGTON — QUESTION: What is the maximum sentencing for each count in the Derek Chauvin trial, and who makes the final decision?
ANSWER: Judge Cahill will make the final decision on sentencing, which can go beyond the usual state recommended guidelines. Here's a look at what maximum sentencing might be.
- Minnesota State Sentencing Guidelines
- St. Thomas Legal professor Rachel Moran
- Former Minnesota attorney and legal expert Rachel Paulose
A verdict has been reached in the Derek Chauvin trial, convicting the former Minneapolis Police Officer on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd. But as for how much time Chauvin will actually serve, that won't be decided until a pre-sentencing report. That's not expected for several weeks.
With the new charges come new questions and concerns about the next steps, with many on social media seeing various numbers on potential sentencing for Chauvin.
So let's Verify: What could Chauvin's sentence look like going forward? What are the maximum counts possible?
Here are the three charges Derek Chauvin was found guilty on and the maximum sentences for each :
- Second Degree Murder: 40 years in prison
- Third Degree Murder: 25 years in prison
- Second Degree Manslaughter: 10 years in prison
What happens next with sentencing? Who makes the final call?
Since the verdict has been read by Judge Cahill, it will now head to sentencing. Prosecutors with the state are asking for a longer sentence, known as an "upward sentencing departure" due to "aggravating factors".
Those factors include :
- Floyd was handcuffed and particularly vulnerable
- Floyd was treated with particular cruelty
- Derek Chauvin abused his authority
- Derek Chauvin committed a crime in a group and in front of children
Minnesota uses sentencing guidelines, which means that for someone with no prior convictions like Chauvin, the recommendation is only 12.5 years for each murder charge, as well as four years for manslaughter.
Even though Chauvin is convicted of more than one count, according to Minnesota law, he only serves a sentence for the most severe charge. If Judge Cahill follows the Minnesota state guidelines, Chauvin would serve just that 12.5-year sentence.
Prosecutors in the case are seeking a longer sentence than the 12.5 years, referencing those "aggravated factors" mentioned above. But it's up to Judge Cahill to decide if those factors exist, and if he will go above the state recommended guidelines.
With a request like this, after the jury reaches a guilty verdict, they typically hold another hearing. That hearing is where the state presents evidence to the jury to prove those “aggravating factors” exist. If the jury agrees, then at sentencing the judge can extend the recommended sentence or ignore the factors.
"The judge may not impose an upward departure without that special jury verdict on something related to the aggravating factor," Ted Sampsell-Jones, a law professor told the VERIFY team.
But this case is different. Chauvin decided to waive his right to have the jury hear that evidence, which means that it's all up to judge Cahill if he’ll face a longer sentence.
And our experts think the longer sentencing is "very likely."
"I do think Judge Cahill's going to very likely to go above the guidelines," says Rachel Paulose, a former Minnesota attorney. "I think a sentence of 20 years is what I would expect."
Paulose said there are two issues a judge would be cognizant of: a statutory maximum and those sentencing guidelines.
"He (Judge Cahill) has the ability to consider both, which means he can consider a sentence anywhere from zero days in prison all the way up to 40 years," she told the VERIFY team.
"What is most likely and what has been typically done in Minnesota State court is that judges follow the sentencing guidelines, putting aside what the statutory maximum is, and in this case, we know that the guidelines project 12 and a half years for the most serious count."
It's also not possible for Judge Cahill to stack the charges against Chauvin.
"No, that's not possible and a lot of people are confused about that" law professor Rachel Moran told the VERIFY team. "But he's actually if you were to be convicted on multiple charges, they would actually merge into the most serious charge, and then he would only be sentenced on that most serious charge."
While we won't know the official sentencing for the next couple of weeks, Paulose said it's likely Minnesota wants to send a message of the highest possible sentencing, especially because Minnesota doesn't have the death penalty.
"The state wants to send a message here that this conduct was completely reprehensible and be that it does not represent the norm of law enforcement. And so I don't have a sense of exactly how much time they'll request. But I think they'll want to send a message to the public and to law enforcement, that this kind of conduct will be met with a strong response from the government."