July 9 (UPI) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has requested a Hennepin County judge to modify the sentencing memorandum of former police officer Derek Chauvin to indicate that children who witnessed the death of George Floyd were traumatized.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison late last month after being convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the 2020 Memorial Day killing of Floyd.
Floyd’s death, which was captured on cellphone video and widely distributed online, followed Chauvin kneeling on the Black man’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as people, including at least four children, one of whom filmed the crime, stood by.
In the seven-page letter sent to Judge Peter Cahill, Ellison said they are not seeking a stronger sentence only for him to make several alterations to Chauvin’s sentencing memorandum opinion to “more accurately” reflect the experiences of the four children who witnessed Floyd’s death and testified during the trial.
In his opinion from June 25, Cahill states that since the children at the scene weren’t forcibly held, an aggravating factor did not apply to the sentencing.
“[A]lthough this court found that children were present during the commission of the offense, the court concludes the presence of that factor does not, under all the facts and circumstances of this case, present a substantial and compelling reason for an upward durational departure,” Cahill wrote in his sentencing.
However, Ellison in his letter argues that this stance is “contrary to law and common sense” as an aggravating factor applies when children witness criminal activity, whether they are forcibly held at the scene or not.
“Children lack the adult capacity for decision-making, including the ability to maturely ‘walk away,'” he wrote. “Moreover, the law does not place the burden on a child to choose between staying — whether to stand witness or in an attempt to aid a victim — or leaving the scene of a crime.”
By not including the aggravating factor, Ellison said the state is “deeply worried” about the message it sends that children should walk away from a crime scene instead of intervening as they did in this situation.
He also requested that language suggesting the children were not traumatized should be removed.
In support of this, he said one of the children — identified as D.F. — broke down in tears on the stand. She testified that she stays up at night apologizing for not doing more to have saved Floyd.
Another child at the scene — identified as A.F. — also told the court during her testimony that she hasn’t been able to return to a restaurant near where the crime happened since, Ellison said.
“This evidence supports a common-sense conclusion: After they witnessed a brutal, minutes-long murder committed by police officers, the children suffered trauma,” he wrote.
And thirdly, Ellison asked Cahill to modify the sentence so it does not place relevance on the behaviors of the children, who were also seen and heard in the recording of the crime.
“The opinion relied on its observation that the children smiled or giggled at various points during the incident. But that observation is completely immaterial: Children process traumatic experiences in ways that may seem unusual to the untrained eye,” Ellison wrote.
“Accordingly, the state respectfully requests the court delete or modify the court’s findings about the extent of the trauma suffered by the children who witnessed Mr. Floyd’s murder,” he said.