Minnesota’s attorney general has asked the judge who oversaw former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial to modify language in his sentencing memo. Keith Ellison says the current wording minimizes the trauma experienced by minors, two of which were Black, who witnessed Chauvin kill George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
Judge Peter Cahill stated in the memo that although minors were at the scene of the crime, that was not enough “reason for an upward durational departure.” The judge believed whatever impact Floyd's death had on the children who were present was not “so substantial and compelling” that it needed to be considered during sentencing.
Cahill also stated in his sentencing memo that he only considered two factors. The first being that as a member of law enforcement, Chauvin abused his power of authority and trust. The second factor being that Chauvin exhibited cruel behavior toward Floyd, ABC 5 reported.
A letter addressed to Cahill on Wednesday, says the language used in the memo could downplay the traumatic effect Floyd's death had on the children who were on the scene.
The attorney general is requesting that the phrases "were free to leave the scene whenever they wished" and "were never coerced or forced by him or any of the other officers to remain a captive presence at the scene" be extracted from the judicial opinion.
"The State is deeply worried about the message sent by suggesting that instead of attempting to intervene in order to stop a crime—which children did in this case—children should simply walk away and ignore their moral compasses. Children should never be put in this position," Ellison said.
In the sentencing memo, Cahill said he observed children who were on the scene, including Darnella Frazier. The judge said he witnessed them smiling and laughing in video footage captured by an officer’s body camera.
DARNELLA FRAIZER. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COURAGE!! pic.twitter.com/HI4zzy1H1H— Kompa Connoisseur (@mr_fete_) April 20, 2021
"Although the state contends that all four of these young women were traumatized by witnessing this incident, the evidence at trial did not present an objective indicia of trauma," Cahill wrote.
Ellison, however, said children "process traumatic experiences in ways that may seem unusual to the untrained eye."
"The children's emotional testimony at trial—including that one of them stays awake at night and another cannot return to Cup Foods—belies that conclusion,” he said, citing a report from the American Psychological Association that "a growing body of research suggests that observers discount the experiences of young Black girls."
Ellison also noted that when Black girls are forced to be mature, they are often neglected and do not receive "protection or nurturing."
If Cahill agrees to make the suggested changes, Ellison says that "will avoid the risk of sending the message that the pain these young women have endured is not real or does not matter, or worse, that it is a product of their own decisions and not a consequence of Defendant's."