Crime, Law and Justice

Judge in George Floyd case: No restrictions on public access to evidence

Two men walk down a hallway behind glass.
Attorneys Earl Gray, left, and Thomas Plunkett, right, arrive at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated 1:20 p.m.

The judge in the case of four ex-police officers charged in George Floyd's killing said Thursday he will not restrict access to evidence and motions, a move that had been sought by prosecutors.

Judge Peter Cahill denied the state’s request to restrict access to police body camera footage and said the built-in lag of the electronic filing system is enough to allow parties to react before documents are made officially public by the court, he said.

A man in a blue medical mask.
Attorney Earl Gray, representing former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, speaks to the press after a hearing at the Hennepin County Courthouse Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison had sought a court order automatically making information in the case secret for at least two business days to give both prosecutors and defense attorneys time to deliberate on whether they should ever reach the public.

The prosecution’s request closely followed the introduction of evidence by the attorney representing former officer Thomas Lane in the case. It includes body camera footage of an incident last year where police arrested Floyd, which Lane’s attorney Earl Gray argued was “markedly similar” to Floyd’s behavior on the day he was killed. 

The prosecution’s request was opposed by a coalition of media organizations, including MPR News, the Star Tribune and the New York Times, among others. A similar coalition has been pushing for the trial to be more open to the public and journalists as the court has grappled with safety and security concerns during the pandemic. 

Although attorneys for the defendants have agreed that the trial could be more widely streamed, prosecutors have expressed concerns with allowing it to be broadcast.

Floyd was killed in south Minneapolis on May 25 after ex-officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for about nine minutes.

All four officers involved in restraining Floyd were fired. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s killing. Former officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. 

The former officers have now been released on bail.

Cahill has not yet issued decisions on a number of pretrial motions, including whether the former officers will be tried together and whether the trial will be moved. It’s scheduled to start in March.