Judge rejects cameras for ex-cops’ hearings in Floyd death

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, shows Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by him and the other Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Kueng, Lane and Thao have been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge on Friday rejected allowing cameras in the court for pretrial proceedings of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd.

News media organizations as well as defense attorneys had requested the audio and visual recordings. But Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill rejected the request, noting the prosecution had objected.

Minnesota rules allow the judge, prosecutors or defense attorneys to veto camera coverage during criminal court proceedings before a conviction. The judge will rule later on whether cameras will be allowed at trial.

A defense attorney filed a motion Thursday on behalf of the ex-officers to allow recording of all pretrial and trial proceedings. The motion argues that the recordings are necessary to guarantee the officers get a fair trial in light of what the defense calls “multiple and inappropriate public comments” by prosecutors and other officials.

“The State’s conduct has made a fair and unbiased trial extremely unlikely and the Defendants seek video and audio coverage to let a cleansing light shine on these proceedings. Doing otherwise allows these public officials to geld the Constitution,” wrote attorney Thomas Plunkett, representing J. Kueng, one of four fired officers charged in Floyd’s death.

The motion notes that Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo recently called Floyd’s death “murder.” Floyd died May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee against the handcuffed Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. All four officers were fired after Floyd’s death.

In a statement Friday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is leading the prosecution, said allowing cameras in the courtroom “will create more problems than it would solve,” by altering the way lawyers present evidence and possibly intimidating witnesses.

“In short, the likelihood of creating more sensation than understanding is very high” if cameras were allowed at trial, Ellison said.

All four ex-officers are due in court Monday for pretrial hearings on issues including reducing bail. Chauvin remains in custody with bail set at $1 million with conditions, while Thao’s conditional bail is $750,000. Lane and Kueng are free on bond.

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