Minnesota judge lifts gag order in George Floyd case

Minnesota judge lifts gag order in George Floyd case

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota judge on Tuesday lifted a gag order in the criminal case against four former officers charged in death of George Floyd, but said he would take under advisement a news media coalition’s request to make body camera footage more widely available.

In announcing his ruling, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said he agreed with defence attorneys’ arguments that a gag order would be unfair to their clients and limit their ability to defend against negative publicity.

Cahill also said the gag order wasn’t working, adding that certain parties were attempting to “tiptoe around the order,” and some media outlets spoke to anonymous sources. The judge said attorneys would still be subject to Minnesota court rules relating to pretrial publicity and professional conduct.

Also on Tuesday, Cahill ruled that he would not hold the lead prosecutor in the case, Attorney General Keith Ellison, in contempt of court as two defence attorneys requested. Cahill determined that a statement Ellison made when he announced that additional attorneys would be assisting the prosecution was innocuous and did not violate the gag order.

Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers who were at the scene, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Kueng, are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired.

Police body camera videos were filed with the court this month by Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, as part of a request to have Lane’s case dismissed. Gray said he wanted the videos to be made public— prompting Cahill to issue the gag order barring attorneys and parties from discussing the case.

Cahill made the videos available for in-person, by-appointment viewing only.

Leita Walker, an attorney for the news media coalition which includes The Associated Press, and Gray both argued Tuesday for wider dissemination of the body camera footage. Walker said making the footage widely available would not further harm the court’s effort to impanel a jury because the public already has access to bystander video, transcripts of the footage and reporting by press who watched the videos.

“This case has international interest. To expect every member of the media to fly to Minneapolis and schedule an appointment … during quarantine is a de facto sealing,” Walker told the judge.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Walker said: “The media coalition’s view is that there’s a lot of stuff already out there and the public is entitled to a complete picture … the media can only report a full story if it’s able to see everything and talk to both sides.”

Gray argued in court that the news media has been unfair to his client, and body camera footage would clear up some misrepresentations. He said the body camera footage shows Floyd stuffed counterfeit bills in his car seat and put drugs in his mouth. Regarding the drugs, Gray said: “That’s probably why he died.”

Two AP writers who viewed the body camera footage at the courthouse last week did not see Floyd put drugs in his mouth, as Gray described.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank argued for the prosecution that releasing the body camera footage could have a negative impact on impaneling an impartial jury.

The issue of whether audio and visual coverage of the trial will be allowed was also discussed at the hearing. The defendants’ attorneys made no objection. Frank said prosecutors will weigh in on that issue by day’s end Monday.

__

Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Mohamed Ibrahim, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Region Highland Dancing Association to participate in national dance-a-thon

Central Albertan dancers have missed performing during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the… Continue reading

Maskwacis teen charged in 10-year-old boy’s death

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

Still no mandatory masks in Red Deer

While a growing number of Alberta communities have made masks mandatory, the… Continue reading

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

Red Deer asking for feedback on new transit routes

The new routes will begin Aug. 23

Cast your votes for Best of Red Deer

The Advocate’s Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are back. Community… Continue reading

RCMP investigate possible drowning at Pigeon Lake; Man and woman found dead on shore

Bodies recovered from Pigeon Lake’s northeastern shores.

Quebec festivals organizers look to innovate as restrictions loosened

Montreal has been having its quietest summer in recent memory, as COVID-19… Continue reading

COVID-19 outbreaks over in federal prisons, staff preparing for ‘new normal’

COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada’s federal prisons have been declared over, and staff… Continue reading

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

OTTAWA — The federal government will match all individual donations from Canadians… Continue reading

Protests in Beirut amid public fury over massive blast

BEIRUT — Police fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators in Lebanon’s… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Most Read