Derek Chauvin Literally Can’t Say How Sorry He Is He Murdered George Floyd
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday to 22 and a half years in prison for George Floyd's brutal murder. This was less than the 30 years the prosecution requested but significantly more than the insulting slap on the wrist Chauvin's defense requested — probation and the time Chauvin had served since his conviction on April 20. That's not even the bare minimum precedent set when former Minneapolis cop Mohamed Noor shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017. Noor is serving 12 and a half years, and his reckless disregard for human life was more believably an “accident" because he didn't shoot Damond for nine minutes and 29 seconds while she begged for her life. Yes, it's true Floyd wasn't a white yoga instructor, but his life still mattered.
Noor was also capable of expressing the human emotion known as “remorse" during his sentencing:
"I caused this tragedy and it is my burden," [Noor] told the court. "I wish though that I could relieve that burden others feel from the loss that I caused. I cannot, and that is a troubling reality for me."
Chauvin, however, claimed that “additional legal matters" prevented him from making a “full, formal statement" like someone in possession of a human soul.
"But briefly, I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family," Chauvin said.
Yes, this monster offered Floyd's family his “condolences," as if Hallmark sells cards that state, “Sorry, I murdered your loved one." That's almost like the gimmick of a serial killer on "Criminal Minds." The murderer sends a sympathy card to his victims' families, maybe with a riddle that offers clues to his next crime.
Chauvin is facing federal charges for violating Floyd's civil rights. Saying he's sorry he murdered Floyd wouldn't necessarily put him in greater legal jeopardy. A jury's already convicted him. But I'm not an expert law talking guy or a psychologist who specializes in heartless killers.
He added he's hopeful other information will emerge that'll give Floyd's family “some peace of mind." He was sketchy on the details. Was Floyd going to walk into the courtroom, alive and healthy, carrying children's letters to Santa Claus? No, George Floyd is dead and the best “peace of mind" for his family is the state holding Chauvin accountable.
Chauvin's mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, demanded leniency for her son, who she believed the media and prosecutors unfairly painted as a racist. That wasn't actually the prosecution's case, and it's not why Chauvin was convicted. Pawlenty insisted prison "will not serve Derek well," as though prison is a pleasure cruise. Prison doesn't serve anyone well. It's prison. All it takes for "Blue Lives Matter" white ladies like Pawlenty to jump on the Angela Davis prison abolition train is the realization that their own kids might end up behind bars.
"I want this court to know that none of these things are true and that my son is a good man," Ms. Pawlenty said. "He has a big heart and he always has put others before his own. The public will never know the loving and caring man he is. But his family does."
Maybe Chauvin is a delight at family gatherings, but if he always put the lives of others before his own, Floyd would still be alive. Floyd cried out for his late mother while Chauvin kept his knee pressed into his neck. Pawlenty can still visit Chauvin in prison.
While delivering Chauvin's sentence, Judge Peter A. Cahill referred to the “particular cruelty" of Floyd's murder, and prosecutor Matthew Frank said that "torture is the right word" to describe how Floyd died.
"And it's a real simple mantra, easy thing to remember," Frank said. "You're going to take custody of somebody, you have to provide care. You have to do it in a caring way. You can't simply disregard their care. Mr. Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority as a police officer by doing just that, just disregarding all his training."
That's the point too many police officers don't understand. They have a greater obligation to civilians they encounter than random people on the street. Enforcing the law doesn't mean cops are inherently above the law.
We should never forget that Chauvin would likely still be free and patrolling the streets if a brave young woman, Darnella Frazier, hadn't recorded Floyd's murder. The stark, undeniable visuals eviscerated the Minneapolis PD's initial lies.
Thursday, not so far from Minnesota, the Ohio GOP advanced a bill that would criminalize heroism like Frazier's. Ohio House Bill 22 would reportedly bring the hammer down on anyone who fails to "follow a lawful order from a law enforcement officer" or “diverts a law enforcement officer's attention." The Chauvin defense grossly tried to blame the crowd of horrified onlookers for Floyd's death. The Ohio police union loves this new law, of course.
Derek Chauvin's conviction is a lot like President Joe Biden's election. Republicans are already hard at work making sure something like this never happens again.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."