The lead prosecutor in the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for murdering George Floyd, has asked the judge to modify his sentencing memo “to prevent potentially causing further harm by discounting the trauma suffered by” the four girls who witnessed Floyd’s murder, reports NBC News. Two of the girls are Black.
In a letter dated last week, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison wrote that “the State respectfully requests that the Court remove the suggestion that, because the children in this case were not forcibly held at the scene or otherwise prevented from leaving, an aggravating factor should not apply.”
“The State is deeply worried about the message sent by suggesting that instead of attempting to intervene in order to stop a crime — which children did in this case — children should simply walk away and ignore their moral compasses,” Ellison wrote. “Children should never be put in this position.”
He asked that two phrases referring to the children be removed from page 16 of the sentencing memo: “were free to leave the scene whenever they wished,” and “were never coerced or forced by him or any of the other officers to remain a captive presence at the scene.”
At the request of prosecutors, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill considered four aggravating factors in determining Chauvin’s sentence. Cahill decided that only two of them merited consideration in his sentencing guidelines: tha Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority as a police officer when he restrained Floyd, and that he treated Floyd with particular cruelty. But he did not agree that the presence of children on the scene and that the participation of other officers were grounds for a longer sentence.
In the sentencing memo, Cahill said the presence of children on the scene, including a 9-year-old girl and her 17-year-old cousin whose cellphone video of Floyd’s arrest brought international attention to his death, did not factor into Chauvin’s punishment because the affect on them was not “so substantial and compelling” as to warrant it, a determination that drew criticism from some legal and traumatic experts.