Floyd killing: Prosecutors want no audio-visual coverage of cops' trials

Ex-cop Tou Thao, right, during a court hearing.
Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, right, watches as his defense attorney, Robert Paule, second from right, and prosecutor Matthew Frank stand before Judge Peter Cahill in Minneapolis on June 29. Prosecutors in the cases against four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the killing of George Floyd say they do not want audio or visual coverage of the trials.
Cedric Hohnstadt via AP file

Updated: 5:40 p.m., July 28 | Posted: 5:39 p.m., July 27

Prosecutors in the cases against four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the May 25 killing of George Floyd said Monday that they do not want audio or visual coverage of the trials.

Derek Chauvin and three other former officers are scheduled to go on trial in March. In a letter filed Monday with the court, the state said it “does not consent to audio or video coverage of any trials in these matters.”

The Minnesota Attorney General’s office did not offer a reason Monday. But in a filing Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said while the prosecution supports a public trial, prosecutors can concerned that live audio and visual coverage in the courtroom “may create more problems than they will solve.”

Audio-visual coverage could alter the way attorneys present evidence, subject participants to heightened media scrutiny — distracting from the trial — and may intimidate some witnesses, Frank wrote, reiterating points made last month by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

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“Testifying in public is challenging enough; live audio and visual testimony could potentially deprive the State of the testimony of certain witnesses,” Frank wrote. But he said the issue perhaps can be revisited as trial approaches.

Under Minnesota court rules, a judge can allow the recording and reproduction of criminal proceedings if both sides consent. Judge Peter Cahill has yet to rule on the matter, but the state’s position makes it unlikely that he will allow cameras at trial.

Last month, Cahill ruled that cameras would not be allowed during pretrial proceedings, after prosecutors objected. At the time, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison 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.

Floyd, who was Black, died on Memorial Day after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the handcuffed man’s neck for several minutes. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. J. Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired after Floyd’s death.

Defense attorneys have said they would be open to audio and visual coverage of the trials, saying the recordings are necessary to guarantee the officers get a fair trial — especially during a pandemic when public access to the courtroom is restricted.