Minnesota prosecutors call 45-year-old former police officer Derek Chauvin’s actions in the May 25, 2020 death cruel and an “egregious abuse” of his position.

People gather at the George Floyd Square to commemorate the first anniversary of Floyd's death, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US May 25, 2021.
People gather at the George Floyd Square to commemorate the first anniversary of Floyd's death, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US May 25, 2021. (Reuters)

Prosecutors have asked a US judge to sentence a white former police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose death last year sparked nationwide protests, to 30 years in prison.

Attorneys for the former Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, countered with a far different request, a sentence of time served and probation, claiming that their client was guilty of "an error made in good faith."

In court documents sent ahead of the June 25 sentencing hearing, prosecutors in Minnesota called actions by the 45-year-old Chauvin an "egregious abuse" of his position.

"Defendant's conduct was also particularly cruel," prosecutors said.

They recalled that Judge Peter Cahill had ruled there were four aggravating factors in the case, allowing him to depart from state sentencing guidelines and clearing the path for a tough sentence.

Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on the neck of the 46-year-old Floyd – suspected of using a counterfeit bill – for more than nine minutes until he passed out and died on May 25, 2020, while ignoring the victim's pleas for air and help. His words "I can't breathe" have become a rallying cry at protests against law enforcement brutality world over.

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The video of Floyd's death, which went viral, sparked huge protests across the US and around the world against racism and police violence.

After a trial lasting several weeks, Chauvin was convicted of murder on April 20 and immediately jailed.

The most serious charge that he was convicted of – second-degree murder – carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

As a first-time offender, Chauvin had potentially faced 12 and a half years in prison on that count under the guidelines but the aggravating factors mean Cahill can opt for a longer jail term.

Lawyers for Chauvin said he was seeking "a probationary sentence with an incarceration period of time served."

As an alternative, Chauvin "respectfully requests that the court grant him a downward durational departure," or a sentence lower than what the guidelines suggest, his lawyer Eric Nelson wrote.

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Aside from the "long-term damage a prison sentence would inflict upon Mr Chauvin's life prospects, given his age, convictions for officer-involved offences significantly increase the likelihood of him becoming a target in prison," Nelson wrote.

Chauvin "was unaware that he was even committing a crime," he wrote, adding: "In fact, in his mind, he was simply performing his lawful duty in assisting other officers in the arrest of George Floyd."

"Mr Chauvin's offense is best described as an error made in good faith... not intentional commission of an illegal act," the lawyer said.

Chauvin also faces separate federal civil rights charges in connection with Floyd's death.

READ MORE: Mass rally held in Minnesota ahead of anniversary of George Floyd's murder

Source: AFP