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State trial of former officers charged in death of George Floyd won't be livestreamed

Judge Peter Cahill issued the order, saying COVID is no longer the threat it was when he allowed cameras in the courtroom for the trial of Derek Chauvin.

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota judge ruled that livestreaming and television coverage will not be allowed for the upcoming trial of three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting George Floyd’s killing.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who cited the threat of COVID-19 in allowing last year’s murder trial of Derek Chauvin to be televised, said in the order that the pandemic has receded to the point that he cannot override the objections of  the other three officers to live audiovisual coverage.

The trial for former Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng is scheduled to begin with motions on June 13. Jury selection begins June 14, with opening statements set for July 5. Cahill said he expects the evidence phase to take four or five weeks, meaning the trial could last into early August.

Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back as Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd, a Black man, to the pavement for 9 1/2 minutes on May 25, 2020.

Prosecutors and a coalition of media organizations including The Associated Press had argued for allowing live televised coverage again, citing the continued intense public and media interest in the case, and the potential resurgence of the coronavirus.

But Cahill wrote that the “unusual and compelling circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic” at the time of the Chauvin trial have substantially abated, and court system rules in force at the time that mandated social distancing have been lifted. So, he said, he's bound by Minnesota's normal court rules, which allow cameras during most of a trial only if all parties consent.

In his opinion, Cahill also noted that the two sides involved in the trial have done "a 180-degree reversal" since the fall of 2020. At that time the state opposed livestreaming, and all defendants favored live coverage of their trials. After the livestreaming of Chauvin's trial, which ended with a murder conviction, prosecutors came out in favor of televising the trial of Thao, Lane and Kueng while the defense teams of Lane and Kueng filed motions opposing it.

In another development Tuesday, Cahill ruled jurors will only be sequestered once closing arguments are made and deliberations begin. 

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