Attorneys for two former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's death are asking a judge to bar their upcoming trial from being livestreamed, saying some witnesses won’t testify if the proceedings are broadcast, reported The Associated Press.
The request from attorneys for Thomas Lane and J. Kueng is an about-face from their earlier request to have the trial publicly broadcast, and it's opposed by prosecutors and news media outlets including The Associated Press. It’s among a few legal issues expected to be argued at a Thursday hearing before Judge Peter Cahill.
Lane, Kueng and Tou Thao are scheduled for trial next March on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s May 2020 death. Their co-defendant, Derek Chauvin, was convicted in April of murder and manslaughter after weeks of proceedings that marked the first time in Minnesota that a criminal trial was livestreamed in its entirety.
Before Chauvin’s trial, attorneys for all four men requested the trials be broadcast, but now attorneys for Lane and Kueng say in nearly identical motions that the “worldwide publicity” from televised coverage of Chauvin’s trail “crushed” their clients’ right to a fair trial. Attorneys Earl Gray and Tom Plunkett say the public access led some witnesses to decline testifying for the defense, noting one witness in the Chauvin trial has been harassed and another faced professional scrutiny.
“Cameras in the Chauvin Courtroom brought us to the dangerous pass where people are deterred from testifying for the defense because they fear the wrath of the crowd,” they wrote.
Thao's attorney hasn't said whether his client still wants the trial broadcast.
Minnesota court rules usually ban cameras at criminal trials unless both sides agree to them. Cahill ordered the trials to be broadcast live, over the initial objections of prosecutors, because of the intense global interest in the case and limited courthouse space due to the pandemic. The livestreaming was widely praised and has led the state to consider expanding its rules for broadcasting future court proceedings.
Prosecutors initially opposed livestreaming Chauvin's trial but now say it was the right move — protecting everyone involved during the pandemic, allowing for meaningful public access and letting people to watch the fair administration of the justice system.
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