Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said when a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd last week, he “felt a little bad” for the defendant. 

“I spent 16 years as a criminal defense lawyer, so I will say I felt a little bad for the defendant,” Ellison said during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday evening. “I think he deserved to be convicted, but he’s a human being.” 

Journalist Scott Pelley, who was interviewing the former Democratic congressman, told Ellison he was not expecting to hear “a note of compassion” from the state’s top prosecutor regarding Chauvin, who was recorded kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd begged the officer to get off and told him he couldn’t breathe 27 times during an arrest last summer. 

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“I’m not in any way wavering from my responsibility,” Ellison said. “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. So I’m not going to ever forget that everybody in this process is a person.” 

Chauvin was the first police officer in Minnesota’s history to be convicted of second-degree, Ellison said. He awaits sentencing and faces up to 40 years in prison for murdering Floyd, following a trial that was widely viewed as a referendum on police brutality and systemic racism in law enforcement. 

“I think it is important for the Court to not go light or heavy,” Ellison said later during the interview. “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.” 

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Some activists and legal analysts had suggested Chauvin, a white man, could have been charged with a hate crime for killing Floyd, a Black man. 

Ellison said on Sunday there was a lack of evidence to do so. 

“I wouldn’t call it that because hate crimes are crimes where there’s an explicit motive and of bias,” he said. “We don’t have any evidence that Derek Chauvin factored in George Floyd’s race as he did what he did.”