BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — After a jury found former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts in the death of George Floyd on Tuesday, he left the courtroom in handcuffs. But what happens next?
Each of Chauvin’s guilty charges carries a different maximum sentence and it will be up to the judge to decide how long he remains behind bars.
Chauvin, 45, is expected to receive his sentence in eight weeks and it could also be the first time we hear directly from him since he chose not to testify on his own behalf.
“What will be fascinating in this particular sentencing proceeding will be what the defendant himself has to say. Since he chose not to testify at trial, we don’t have any sense of whether there’s remorse or whether there is acceptance of responsibility,” Andrew Horwitz said.
Horwitz is the director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University. He believes the prosecution will push for a lengthy prison sentence.
“This wasn’t an officer who got into an off-duty fight, this was an officer who was using his uniform and his badge in order to commit a heinous crime,” Horwitz said. “Certainly the prosecution will seek a very long sentence based on that front.”
Horwitz says he wasn’t surprised by Tuesday’s verdict even though the jury deliberated for just over 10 hours and sent no questions to the judge.
“What they often say is when you have a quick deliberation that would suggest that there’s a not guilty verdict. It often takes jurors a longer time to get to unanimity to get to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so the fact that this was a pretty quick verdict in a difficult emotionally charged trial suggests to me that there was very little dissension if any in the jury,” he explained.
Horwitz says the evidence was strong, particularly cell phone video that captured the nation’s attention and disputed the narrative initially released by police that Floyd died following a medical incident.
“I think the video was everything,” Horwitz said. “What’s happened it, we used to have to listen to police accounts we no longer have to listen solely to police accounts. We have video to look at.”
Horwitz expects Chauvin will appeal, but says the appeal process is not about the facts of the case, and instead would seek to point out errors made in the proceedings.
“An appeal is only really about the law. Were there legal errors made? Did the judge make rulings that were inappropriate? Was evidence admitted over objection that shouldn’t have been admitted? Were there problems with the instructions to the jury about the law? That sort of thing,” he explained.
Oftentimes court rulings are looked as at setting precedence for the future. Horwitz said he’s hopeful that this sets s precedent for the police community to more freely police each other and feel allowed to call out an officer who is dishonoring his badge.