Trial of Police Officers in George Floyd Case to Be Livestreamed: Judge

December 21, 2020 Updated: December 21, 2020

A judge in Minnesota has upheld his decision to livestream the trial against four ex-Minneapolis police officers who stand accused in connection with the death of George Floyd.

In a ruling issued on Dec. 18, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said that he is permitting video coverage of the trial due to immense global interest in the case and limited courthouse space amid the “unique and unprecedented situation” brought about by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

The trial of Derek Chauvin, 44, Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, is set to take place in March 2021, however attorneys for two of the former officers have asked for the trial to be delayed until summer.

Cahill brushed aside concerns by state prosecutors, who argued in a motion filed Nov. 25 (pdf) that a livestream of the trial would violate court rules and scare away potential witnesses. Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office, which is leading the prosecution, asked that Cahill rescind his previous ruling or consider narrowing the scope of outside access.

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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 1, 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Without question, deprivation of the constitutional rights that are the hallmarks of a public criminal trial would be a ‘manifest injustice,’” Cahill wrote.

“The only real issue then, is whether there is a reasonable alternative to televising the trial that would vindicate the defendants’ Sixth Amendment rights and the First Amendment rights of the public and the press… The court concludes that televising the trial is the only reasonable and meaningful method to safeguard the Sixth and First Amendment rights implicated in these cases,” the judge added.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. Lane, Kueng, and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

All four officers were fired after Floyd’s death.

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(L-R) Former Minneapolis Police Department officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, in booking photos. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Floyd’s death was classified by a county medical examiner as a homicide, with his heart stopping while he was restrained by police and his neck compressed. A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.”

According to prosecutors’ notes, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker told prosecutors that absent other apparent causes of death, it “could be acceptable” to rule the death an overdose, based on the level of fentanyl in Floyd’s system. A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family concluded he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.

Tom Ozimek and The Associated Press contributed to this report.