Lawyers: 3 Minneapolis ex-cops want Floyd gag order lifted

Ex-cop Thomas Lane, second from right, stands beside his defense attorney.
In this courtroom sketch, former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, second from right, stands beside his defense attorney, Earl Gray, right wearing glasses, during a hearing before Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill in Minneapolis, Monday, June 29, 2020.
Cedric Hohnstadt via AP

Attorneys for three former Minneapolis police officers who are charged in the death of George Floyd asked a judge Monday to lift a gag order in the case, saying prosecutors and public officials have already made comments that could prejudice a potential jury pool against their clients.

Attorneys for Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao said in court filings Monday that a gag order should not have been issued without a public hearing. Thomas Lane's attorney, Earl Gray — who made comments to the media the day before the gag order was issued last week — clarified that he said nothing that would have warranted the judge's order that bars the parties and attorneys from discussing the case.

Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died pleading for air May 25 after Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Thao and two other officers are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, said that while the court may have a legitimate interest in reducing pretrial publicity to avoid tainting a jury pool, in the last several weeks Chauvin has been called a murderer or killer. Nelson added that some public officials have referred to the case as a “murder.”

Nelson argued that after more than six weeks of one side of the story, prosecutors are the only ones who have benefited from pretrial publicity. He wrote that “the Constitutional right to a fair and public trial by an impartial jury belongs to the Defendant — not the State." He said it would be difficult to find pretrial publicity referring to Chauvin’s innocence until proven guilty, or saying that his actions were justifiable in the line of duty.

Thao's attorney, Bob Paule, wrote there are no proper grounds for a restrictive gag order. He said public statements won't interfere with the fair and impartial administration of justice as long as everyone follows Judge Peter Cahill's earlier warning. On June 29, Cahill told all parties to avoid talking about the merits of the case, evidence and guilt or innocence.

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