top of page

Trauma Experts Disagree with Judge’s Decision on Trauma of Children

During the sentencing hearing for Derek Chauvin Judge Cahill informed the public that he would publish a 26 page document following the June 25 hearing to explain how he reached his decision of sentencing Chauvin to 22 1/2 years in prison. While many people, including the George Floyd family, did not feel Chauvin’s sentence was long enough sentence Attorney General Keith Ellison did not object to the Judge’s decision.

The request Ellison did make following sentencing was in response to pages 16 and 17 of the document that Judge Cahill published. On July 7, Ellison wrote a formal letter to the judge requesting the Judge to amend his 26 page document to acknowledge the trauma endured by the children who witnessed the murder of George Floyd. On Wednesday July 14, Judge Cahill denied Ellison’s request.

In Ellison’s request he outlined that his request for an amendment was not in pursuit of more jail time but to have an accurate court record of the trauma of children who witnessed Chauvin murder George Floyd.

In Cahill’s document he notes that the witnesses were never “coerced or forced” to remain present at the scene. In which Ellison had the following response:

It is unfair to place the burden on a child—at any age—to refrain from following her moral compass and confronting injustice. It may well have been even more traumatic to require a child to ignore their moral intuition and potentially be haunted by that decision.”

Judge Cahill also noted that 9-year-old Judea Reynolds could be seen laughing at times on the body camera footage of one the other officers. Judea was accompanied by her 17-year-old cousin who filmed George Floyd’s murder.

Trauma expert and author Dr. Gabor Mate says laughing is a trauma response.

There’s no evidence that those children weren’t traumatized. When something terrifying or painful is happening the laughter that a child might exhibit is a protective mechanism to protect them against the pain and the horror of what is happening,” says Dr. Mate.

Trauma Specialist Resmaa Menakem agrees.

Judge Cahill’s ruling is not a misunderstanding of trauma, it’s a disregarding of trauma,” says Resmaa.


bottom of page