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
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.