With Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder, attention now turns to his sentencing – and to the trial of three fellow former police officers who are accused of aiding and abetting Chauvin, who is white, in the killing of George Floyd, who was Black.
Tuesday’s verdict is being hailed by activists who urge more accountability for police, particularly in officers’ use of violent and deadly force against people of color.
Here’s a look at what’s next in the Minneapolis case:
Chauvin’s likely prison sentence
Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced in June after a jury found him guilty of all three charges Tuesday. In Minnesota, a person convicted of multiple crimes that happened at the same time is typically only sentenced for the most severe charge. In this case, that would be second-degree murder (unintentional) while committing a felony.
State guidelines recommend that Chauvin be sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for second-degree murder, given his lack of prior criminal history. But he could face a longer prison term if prosecutors successfully argue that aggravating factors – such as Chauvin’s position of authority and Floyd’s killing in front of a dozen witnesses – require greater punishment.
The maximum prison term for second-degree unintentional murder is 40 years, although the state’s sentencing guidelines for second-degree unintentional murder largely taper off at 24 years.
Judge Peter Cahill, who has authority to sentence Chauvin above or below the guidelines, will take the first step in establishing the range of Chauvin’s prison sentence in two weeks. He’ll consider both sides’ arguments over whether aggravating factors call for an “upward departure” in sentencing. Those arguments will be made in writing. The former police officer will be sentenced about six weeks later.
Under Minnesota law, people sentenced to prison become eligible to be considered for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence, providing they’ve had no disciplinary problems in prison.
Kueng, Lane, and Thao face trial
The trial of three other former police officers who were involved in Floyd’s death is set to begin on Aug. 23 in the same Hennepin County government building where Chauvin was tried.
The former officers — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — will be tried together. The state has charged them each with two counts of aiding and abetting — one for second-degree murder and one for second-degree manslaughter.
All the former officers would face the same maximum penalty of 40 years in prison if they’re found guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder. A guilty verdict on aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter would expose them to a maximum of 10 years in prison, according to court documents in the case.
Kueng, Lane and Thao were fired along with Chauvin one day after Floyd died last Memorial Day. Soon afterward, prosecutors leveled criminal charges against the four.
At the time of Floyd’s death, Chauvin was by far the most experienced officer of the group, with 19 years on the force. He also held the status of a field training officer.
Kueng, 27, and Lane, 38, were the first officers to respond to the Cup Foods store in southern Minneapolis after a report came in that someone had used a suspected counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase. Thao, 35, then arrived with Chauvin.
A small crowd watched as the officers struggled to put Floyd into a police vehicle and then restrained him in the street, holding him facedown on the asphalt for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Video from the scene, with Floyd pleading for his life, set off outrage and months of protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
Police department under scrutiny
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a federal investigation into “whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.”
The guilty verdict in Chauvin’s case “does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland said.
The attorney general said the civil inquiry will review allegations of excessive force by Minneapolis police officers. The scope of the inquiry will also include police actions during the months of protests that followed Floyd’s death.
“If the Justice Department concludes that there’s reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing, we will issue a public report of our conclusions,” Garland said.
In addition to the new probe, the Justice Department is already conducting a civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death.
Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo and other senior police officials testified against Chauvin during the former officer’s trial, saying his actions went against departmental policies and training.