MINNEAPOLIS — The August trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting George Floyd's murder will be also livestreamed like that of their former colleague Derek Chauvin, who was convicted last week in the case.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill's ruling last November allowing the livestreaming will apply to the Aug. 23 trial of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, court spokesman Spenser Bickett said Wednesday, April 28. All three will be tried together in one trial. Former officer Derek Chauvin's March 8 to April 20 trial was livestreamed across the world by several media outlets.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is leading the prosecution, declined to comment last week when asked whether he believed livestreaming Chauvin's trial lent more credibility to the court process, and whether he supported livestreaming or recording other trials moving forward. His office previously resisted livestreaming the defendants' trials.
"It's the court's prerogative," Ellison said last week. "Just leave it right there."
Cahill issued the order when the three defendants' were expected to be tried in one trial with Chauvin. COVID-19 social distancing protocols later required splitting the trial into two. Jurors convicted Chauvin last Tuesday of all the counts against him — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Kueng, Lane and Thao are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. The Minnesota Attorney General's Office wants to add aiding and abetting third-degree murder to each of their cases. The Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the issue on May 20.
The attorneys for all four defendants had advocated for livestreaming their clients' court appearances and trials, arguing that it was the only way they could get a fair trial given the number of city, county and state officials who had publicly denounced their actions during Floyd's arrest and death. However, Ellison's office pushed back against livestreaming the trial, and unsuccessfully asked the judge late last year to either rescind his order or dramatically scale back its scope.
Cahill wrote that COVID-19 protocols would severely limit the number of people who could watch the trial in person. Livestreaming the trial was the only way to meet the defendants' constitutional rights to a public trial and to maintain the public and press' constitutional rights to free speech and free press, the judge wrote.
"Without question, deprivation of the constitutional rights that are the hallmarks of a public criminal trial would be a 'manifest injustice,' " Cahill wrote in a December decision rejecting the prosecution's request for him to reconsider his November order. "The only real issue then, is whether there is a reasonable alternative to televising the trial that would vindicate the defendants' Sixth Amendment rights and the First Amendment rights of the public and the press. … The Court concludes that televising the trial is the only reasonable and meaningful method to safeguard the Sixth and First Amendment rights implicated in these cases."
Bickett said the issue could be revisited.
"If one or both parties file motions prior to the trial to reconsider or alter the order, Judge Cahill will address those motions," Bickett said.
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