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Inside The Courtroom At Derek Chauvin's Sentencing

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And that brings us to today, where we also heard Chauvin speak in court for the first time since he invoked his Fifth Amendment right and chose not to testify during his trial. NPR's Adrian Florido has been following this trial from the very beginning, and he joins us now to talk about this sentencing.

Hi, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So take us inside the courtroom today. What was it like in there?

FLORIDO: Well, Derek Chauvin wore a suit, which the judge allowed him to do, rather than appear in his prison orange. He sat next to his lawyer, Eric Nelson. Five of his loved ones were also there, including his mother. And also in court were members of George Floyd's family.

CHANG: Yeah, let's talk about that because sentencing hearings are a chance for lawyers and loved ones from both sides to appeal to the judge before the sentencing decision is handed down. Can you just tell us what testimony struck you today?

FLORIDO: Well, we heard very briefly from Floyd's 7-year-old daughter Gianna via a recorded video and then from his two brothers, Terrence and Philonise, who both asked Judge Peter Cahill to issue a maximum sentence, which in this case would have been 40 years. Here's Terrence.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TERRENCE FLOYD: We don't want to see no more slaps on the wrist. We've been through that already. In my community, in my culture, we've been through that already - smacked on the wrist. No, no, no, no, no.

FLORIDO: Floyd's other brother Philonise had said George Floyd's murder was like life sentence for his family.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PHILONISE FLOYD: I haven't had a real nice sleep because of the nightmares I constantly have, hearing my brother beg and plead for his life over and over again - even saying, they're going to kill me; please, officer, screaming for our mom.

FLORIDO: After the Floyd family spoke, we heard from prosecutor Matthew Frank.

CHANG: What did the prosecutor have to say?

FLORIDO: Well, state guidelines say that someone like Derek Chauvin without a criminal record would be sentenced to somewhere between 10 and 15 years for second-degree unintentional murder. But the prosecution a few weeks ago asked Judge Cahill for a 30-year sentence, saying that this was not a typical second-degree murder.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATTHEW FRANK: This is nine and a half minutes of cruelty to a man who was helpless and just begging for his life.

FLORIDO: He asked the judge to send a message that the criminal justice system recognized the harm Chauvin had brought on the Floyd family and the whole community.

CHANG: And after the prosecution laid out their argument, we heard from Chauvin's side. Who spoke on his behalf?

FLORIDO: It was his mother, Carolyn Pawlenty. It was her first time speaking publicly since Floyd was killed. And she tried to humanize her son, saying that Derek Chauvin was a loving and honorable man. And then she turned, and she addressed him directly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAROLYN PAWLENTY: Derek, my happiest moment is when I gave birth to you. And my second is when I was honored to pin your police badge on you. I remember you whispering to me, don't stick me with it.

FLORIDO: For the first time since the trial began, Ailsa, we saw Chauvin grow visibly emotional.

CHANG: Well, what did Chauvin's lawyer have to say?

FLORIDO: Well, he argued - Eric Nelson argued in a presentencing brief that Chauvin should be sentenced to just probation with no more prison time. And today he elaborated on why.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC NELSON: He was decorated as a police officer - multiple life-saving awards. He was decorated for valor. He was proud to be a police officer because what he liked to do was help people.

CHANG: Now, there were a lot of people who thought that Chauvin would not speak at all today, but he did. He did make a brief statement. What exactly did Chauvin say?

FLORIDO: Not much because he still faces a federal criminal case. But he did turn to the Floyd family and say this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEREK CHAUVIN: I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There's going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind.

FLORIDO: After that, Ailsa, Judge Cahill delivered his sentence. He didn't speak at length like judges sometimes do when they sentence someone. But he did acknowledge the tremendous pain that both families, but especially the Floyd family, was feeling. Then he turned to Derek Chauvin, and he said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER CAHILL: The court commits you to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for a period of 270 months. That's 2-7-0. This is based on your abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd.

FLORIDO: After that, Derek Chauvin was taken away to start his sentence.

CHANG: That is NPR's Adrian Florido giving us the latest on the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Thank you so much, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.