‘I will admit, I felt a little bad for the defendant,’ Ellison told the CBS current affairs show.
‘I think he deserved to be convicted. But he’s a human being.’
Ellison told 60 Minutes that his 16 years as a defense attorney led him to try to feel compassionate for defendants.
‘I’m not in any way wavering from my responsibility. But I hope we never forget that people who are defendants in our criminal justice system, that they’re human beings. They’re people. I mean, George Floyd was a human being. And so I’m not going to ever forget that everybody in this process is a person.’
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter at the conclusion of the three week trial.
He faces a maximum term of 40 years in prison and minimum 12.5 years when he is sentenced on June 16.
But when asked for his opinion on an appropriate custodial punishment, Ellison said he didn’t want to see a heavy sentence meted out to Chauvin.
‘I think it is important for the court to not go light or heavy. I don’t know if it’s right for a judge to send a message through a sentence because the sentence should be tailored to the offense, tailored to the circumstances of the case,’ Ellison told 60 Minutes.
‘Look, the State never wanted revenge against Derek Chauvin. We just wanted accountability.’
Minnesota Attorney-General said his initial reaction to the guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial was to feel ‘a little bad’ for the former police officer
George Floyd, left, pictured with his daughter Gianna, who is now 6 years old. Floyd died on May 25 last year after Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than 9 minutes
Mobile phone footage of Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck during the arrest that ended in Floyd’s death was crucial to securing a conviction, Keith Ellison said
Derek Chauvin, left, in his booking photo on April 21, will be sentenced on June 16. Keith Ellison, right, the Attorney-General of Minnesota, led the prosecution of Derek Chauvin. He said he doesn’t believe Chauvin should get a heavy sentence
Ellison also told CBS’s flagship current affairs show that there no evidence to suggest Floyd’s death constituted a racist hate crime.
‘I wouldn’t call it that because hate crimes are crimes where there’s an explicit motive and of bias,’ he told 60 Minutes.
Hate crimes would typically involve the use of racist language, Ellison said.
‘We don’t have any evidence that Derek Chauvin factored in George Floyd’s race as he did what he did.’
To bring a race hate charge would have required evidence to show Chauvin targeted Floyd because of his race.
Ellison, a former Congressman who was elected as state Attorney-General in 2019, said he didn’t feel certain of securing a conviction until the jury returned the verdict.
‘I remember what happened in the Rodney King case when I was a pretty young man, young lawyer,’ he told
‘And I remember how devastated I felt when I heard that the jury acquitted those officers.’
‘Whenever – an officer is charged with an offense, particularly when the victim is a person of color, it’s just rare that there’s any accountability.
‘And so, there was every moment of this case, I thought, ‘What are we missing? What haven’t we done?’
Central to the case was the video, filmed by Darnella Frazier, of Floyd’s arrest, and Ellison said they carefully weighed how much to use it.
Ellison admitted that without the footage, he was unsure if they would have been able to secure a conviction.
He explained that his team worked on prosecuting the case on the assumption the video would be ruled inadmissible as evidence, in the hopes of building the most watertight case possible.
Chauvin is led handcuffed from the court after being found guilty on all three charges relating to George Floyd’s death
The guilty verdicts were met with jubilation by crowds outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Chauvin is currently in Oak Park Heights prison – Minnesota’s only maximum security facility – and will be sentenced on June 16.
The prosecutors will be back in court in August, pursuing the conviction of the other three officers involved in Floyd’s fatal arrest – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Ellison led the prosecution, with assistance from two other assistant attorney generals – Matthew Frank and Erin Eldridge.
His team was further bolstered by two lawyers hired especially for the trial, Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher.
The Chauvin murder trial took on enormous significance as the nation waited on tenterhooks for the verdict.
The tension that had gradually mounted during the three-week trial had been on the verge of boiling over into widespread civil unrest.
After the guilty verdicts were returned, President Joe Biden weighted in to say they sent a message that no one is ‘above the law’, as he demanded new action to honor Floyd after a killing he called a ‘stain on the nation’s soul.’
Chauvin invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in his own murder trial
‘No one should be above the law. And today’s verdict sends that message. But it’s not enough. It can’t stop here,’ Biden said.
The Department of Justice is now investigating whether they will charge Derek Chauvin over a 2017 incident where he knelt on a black 14-year-old boy’s neck for nearly 17 minutes.
Federal prosecutors had witnesses testify before a grand jury two months ago regarding the 2017 incident.
The DOJ probe is still ongoing and the Minneapolis Police Department recently was briefed on it.
Chauvin has never faced any charges over the 2017 arrest.
The details regarding the 2017 emerged late last year when state prosecutors tried to convince a judge to let them use Chauvin’s prior use-of-force incidents.
The nation had been on edge in the lead-up to the guilty verdicts, with fears an acquittal could lead to widespread rioting in Minneapolis, above, and other cities
The judge banned prosecutors from telling jurors about the 2017 incident.
In court documents, prosecutors said body cam video showed Chauvin and another officer responding to a domestic assault September 4, 2017 in which a mother said she was assaulted by her teenage son and daughter.
The body cam footage has not been released.
The officers arrived to find the 14-year-old boy lying on the floor of his bedroom while on his phone.
They ordered him to get up because he was under arrest.
When he refused, Chauvin grabbed him and struck the teen in the head with his flashlight, the court documents say.
Chauvin then grabbed him by the throat before hitting him again with the flashlight.
Prosecutors had argued this all occurred less than a minute after the officers first encountered the boy.
Chauvin applied a neck restraint to the boy, who briefly went unconscious, and then placed him in a prone position with a knee in his back for about 17 minutes until paramedics arrived.