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State asks judge to reconsider allowing broadcast of trial in George Floyd case

Documents signed by AG Keith Ellison say the order to allow video and audio devices takes away the rights of witnesses and other parties to consent.
Credit: Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration, L.L.C.
Judge Peter Cahill (Courtroom sketch by Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration, L.L.C.)

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed documents requesting that the judge presiding over the case of four former police officers accused in the death of George Floyd reconsider his order allowing their trial to be broadcast. 

In his request Ellison says the Nov. 4 order by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill upsets the balance between public access to criminal trials and the rights of parties and witnesses. "Ordinary citizens have been thrust into these proceedings simply because they witnessed George Floyd’s death. They should not be forced to sacrifice their privacy or suffer possible threats of intimidation when they perform their civic duty and testify." 

The state says Judge Cahill's admission of television cameras and recording devices might be intimidating to some witnesses and make it less likely that they will testify, potentially interfering with a fair trial. 

RELATED: Judge orders single trial for 4 former officers in George Floyd's death, keeps trial in Hennepin County

Ellison is asking that even if Judge Cahill doesn't fully rescind his order allowing broadcast of the trial of former Minneapolis Police officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, he should limit it in scope. The state says some of the narrowing of the order could include permitting only the broadcast of opening and closing arguments, the testimony of witnesses that consent, and blacking out the testimony of any witness who objects to live broadcasting. 

"That would allow the public to see key aspects of this trial without undermining the administration of justice," the state's request reads. 

The joint trial of Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane is currently scheduled to begin March 8, 2021 in Hennepin County. 

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death in May. Video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck was seen around the world, and prompted days of unrest in the Twin Cities. 

Co-defendants J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.