Articles featuring Jacksonville Defense Attorney Janet Johnson giving her expert opinion on the pressing legal issues of our day.
April 21, 2021, 3:09 PM ET Oxygen.com Interview with Janet Johnson
What’s Next For Derek Chauvin After Conviction: Sentencing And Potential Appeals
Experts weigh in on how much time they believe Derek Chauvin will actually get for the murder of George Floyd.
On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty on all three charges presented before them: – second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter – for fatally pinning Floyd to the ground in May of 2020. He pressed his knee against his neck for over nine minutes — even after Floyd became unresponsive. Chauvin was one of several officers responding to a report that Floyd had attempted to use a counterfeit $20 bill. The murder, which was captured on video by a teen girl, ignited worldwide protests, and calls for police reform and the dismantling of systemic racism.
Following Chauvin’s conviction, he was handcuffed and led out the courtroom as crowds across America erupted in celebration. The conviction marked the first time in the state’s history in which “a white police officer has been held accountable for killing a Black man,” the ACLU wrote in a press release.
What’s next for Chauvin?
Florida-based defense attorney and legal analyst Janet Johnson told Oxygen.com that despite the triple conviction, the former officer will only be sentenced on the most serious charge of second-degree unintentional murder. For that charge, Johnson believes that Chauvin will be sentenced to twelve and a half years. However, if the judge finds mitigating factors, which is what the prosecution is asking for, he could be sentenced to a total of 40 years behind bars.
“The wildcard is we don’t know if the judge will find the aggravating factors,” Johnson told Oxygen.com, referencing Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill. “He seemed pro-defense in the trial. When in doubt he’d err on the side of the defense. The fact that the defense waived their rights to have a jury do the sentencing and picked the judge tells you that they think that too.”
She added, though, that this is indeed a case in which one would think the aggravating factors would apply.
“When a police officer abuses his authority which is what they [the jury] found by finding him guilty, that’s a textbook reason to exceed it,” she said.
Johnson said if Chauvin is sentenced to four decades behind bars, he will likely serve 30 years with 10 off on conditional release.
Karen Conti, a Chicago-based lawyer, disagrees. She estimates that Chauvin will be sentenced to around 15 years after the judge weighs out the aggravating factors and Chauvin’s past and that he will serve only ten years of that sentence.
“The judge will factor in that Chauvin does not have a criminal history,” she said. “That he doesn’t pose an ongoing threat to society. That he has already been punished by losing his job, reputation, family, everything.”
As for the appeals process, Conti tells Oxygen.com that “an appeal is certain.”
“The best chance for an appeal is the argument that he could not get a fair trial due to pretrial publicity,” she said. “The judge twice refused to change venue. This video was seen by most of the jurors before they were selected. Politicians including Congressman Waters, President Biden, and the governor of Minnesota basically said Chauvin was guilty. During jury selection, a $27 million settlement between the city and Floyds’ family was announced. What better evidence of guilt is there when your employer pays the victim $27 million?”
Defense attorney Eric Nelson had urged Cahill to declare a mistrial, for these very reasons.
Johnson also points out that the second-degree murder charge was initially thrown out by the judge and then reinstated following the prosecutors’ appeal.
“This judge had ruled that it didn’t apply,” she said. “It could easily get appealed.”
She said that in the event that happens, the fact that the jury convicted him on two other counts will work in the state’s favor; if the jury had only convicted him on second-degree murder and he successfully appealled, then Chauvin could have potentially walked.
Janet Johnson, Guest Columnist for the Ponte Vedra Recorder, April 15, 2021
When the Police are on Trial – the Derek Chauvin case (George Floyd)
Janet Johnson Article regarding Voting Rights, published in the Ponte Vedra Recorder, February 7, 2019