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Locals react to Chauvin verdict

Locals react to Chauvin verdict

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Local reaction

Wahoo Police Chief Bruce Ferrell

MINNEAPOLIS – Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder and manslaughter for pressing his knee against the neck of George Floyd as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe, will be sentenced in June, according to an online court docket for the case.

Online records say Chauvin will be sentenced June 16 at 1:30 p.m. by Peter Cahill, the Hennepin County judge who oversaw the trial that included nearly three weeks of testimony from bystanders, medical experts and police use-of-force trainers.

Chauvin, 45, was convicted last week of all three counts against him: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Under Minnesota statutes he’ll only be sentenced on the most serious one – second-degree murder.

While that count carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, experts say he won’t get that much. They say that for all practical purposes, the maximum he would face is 30 years, and he could get less.

There has been very little local reaction to the George Floyd incident and the Derek Chauvin verdict in Wahoo, according to Police Chief Bruce Ferrell.

“We have not had any negative aspects,” said Ferrell. “My hope is the work we do in the community and the service the Wahoo Police Department provides shows that we care about all of our citizens.”

However, there has been reaction within the Wahoo Police Department. Since Floyd’s death last May, some new policies have been put in place or current policies updated, according to Ferrell.

“We have improved our policies to include Duty to Intervene and Render Medical Aid, even though our officers have always had that understanding and practice,” he said.

Since Ferrell became chief of police in 2018, there has been an uptick in cases involving the mentally ill, he said. Since then, WPD had been assessing standard operating procedures in order to find ways to improve dealing with the mentally ill, as well as people in crisis and under the influence, the chief said. He brought some of this training over from his 33 years of law enforcement experience prior to coming to Wahoo.

“Our officers have completed Implicit Bias training and all of the Wahoo Police Department is attending CIT (Crisis Intervention Training), which focuses on working with the mentally ill and people in crisis.

Ferrell said law enforcement in general has always been aware that they are under scrutiny and should provide the best customer service when dealing with the public.

“Wahoo Police will continue to look towards providing non-biased contacts with the public and working to assist our citizens in a positive and professional manner,” he said.

Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, the presumptive second-degree murder sentence for someone with no criminal record like Chauvin would be 12 1/2 years. Judges can sentence someone to as little as 10 years and eight months or as much as 15 years and still be within the advisory guideline range.

But in this case, prosecutors are seeking a sentence that goes above the guideline range, called an “upward departure.” They cited several aggravating factors, including that Floyd was particularly vulnerable, that Chauvin was a uniformed officer acting in a position of authority, and that his crime was witnessed by multiple children – including a 9-year-old girl who testified that watching the restraint made her “sad and kind of mad.”

Both sides are expected to file written arguments on whether there were aggravating factors, and Cahill will make a finding before the sentencing hearing.

Even if aggravating factors are found to be present, experts say Cahill likely wouldn’t sentence Chauvin to anything more than 30 years – because previous Supreme Court rulings indicate anything more than that would risk a reversal on appeal.

No matter what sentence Chauvin gets, in Minnesota it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds of the penalty in prison and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole.

That means if Chauvin is sentenced to 30 years, he would likely serve about 20 behind bars, as long as he causes no problems in prison. Once on supervised release, he could be sent back to prison if he violates parole conditions.

Chauvin is currently in Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison, and is in a single cell for his safety.

He did not testify at trial, and it’s not known if he will make a statement at sentencing.

Meanwhile, Cahill ruled Friday that the prospective juror list, juror profiles, questionnaires and the original verdict form with the foreperson’s signature will remain nonpublic until further court order.

Cahill told jurors early on that their names would be kept under seal until he deemed it safe to release them. In Friday’s order he said the case is still of high interest and he’ll keep jurors’ names sealed “to protect those jurors desiring to remain anonymous from unwanted publicity or harassment.” He said jurors who wish to speak about the case may do so.

He said he would wait at least 180 days before reviewing his decision on juror confidentiality.

- Wahoo Newspaper Reporter Suzi Nelson contributed to this story.

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