Minnesota AG to Judge: Youth Witnesses of Floyd Murder Suffered Trauma

Minnesota AG to Judge: Youth Witnesses of Floyd Murder Suffered Trauma

07.15.21
Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
07.15.21

The lead prosecutor in the case against Derek Chauvin is asking the judge to rewrite his sentencing order to delete suggestions that child witnesses did not suffer trauma.

In a letter recently made public, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison wrote that “the State respectfully requests that the Court remove the suggestion that, because the children in this case were not forcibly held at the scene or otherwise prevented from leaving, an aggravating factor should not apply.”

Ellison stressed that he’s not seeking any change to Chauvin’s 22 1/2-year sentence for the murder of George Floyd. He cited research showing that children process trauma differently from adults and that adults tend to discount the impact of trauma on Black girls.

“Discounting the trauma of the children who testified at trial — in an authoritative judicial opinion, no less — will only exacerbate the trauma they have suffered,” Ellison wrote. “The Court should correct the public record to avoid that result.”

Ellison asked that two phrases referring to the children be removed from page 16 of the sentencing memo: “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.”

In the sentencing memo, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said the presence of children on the scene did not factor into Chauvin’s punishment because the effect on them was not “so substantial and compelling” as to warrant it.

But the attorney general wrote that the “evidence supports a commonsense conclusion: After they witnessed a brutal, minuteslong murder committed by police officers, the children suffered trauma.” 

Any further response from Cahill “will come via the official court record,” a court spokesperson said, according to NBC News.