June 22, 2021 – Citing Minnesota criminal law, University of Houston Law Center Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson said that Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill could levy a prison sentence of up to 30 years against the former Minneapolis police officer convicted in the death of George Floyd.
Thompson, the Newell H. Blakely Chair and director of the Criminal Justice Institute, was one of several speakers at the virtual forum, "George Floyd: Where Are We After One Year?" which was hosted by UH's Racial Equity and Social Justice Committee.
Thompson added that Minnesota's unique structured sentencing guidelines can somewhat constrain a judges’ discretion.
“Given the charge and his prior criminal history, 12.5 years is the starting point on the guidelines for this conviction in the ordinary case,” Thompson said. “The guidelines also allow the judges to depart, to either go up or down, depending on aggravating or mitigating factors. The judge must consider the evidence on these factors and make a sentence.
“In this particular case, Judge Cahill has already ruled that there are applicable aggravating factors. Derek Chauvin abused a position of trust or authority. As a police officer he was entrusted to use force responsibly and legally. In many places, there would be a lot more latitude to get out early, but not in Minnesota. Thirty years is the maximum that's expected, or something very close to it.”
Thompson teaches Criminal Evidence, Criminal Law, Evidence and Hot Topics in Criminal Law and Procedure. She joined the Law Center faculty in 1990.