News Media Seek Camera Access to Floyd Death Trial

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Will the trial of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death be televised? The judge has yet to decide whether cameras will be allowed. Supporters of audio and visual coverage say the high-profile nature of Floyd’s death, the outrage that led to worldwide protests, and courtroom restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic make this the right time to allow cameras in court, the Associated Press reports. The state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case says cameras would create more problems. “I just can’t think of a situation where it’s more important than a case like this for the public to see what’s actually transpiring in the courtroom,” said Jane Kirtley of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law.

Judge Peter Cahill would not allow audio and visual coverage of pretrial proceedings because he said it would risk tainting the possible jury pool and the state opposed it. Unlike many other states, Minnesota does not allow cameras at criminal trials before sentencing unless the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree to them. The former officers have consented to cameras. Defense attorneys say cameras would help ensure the trial is fair during the pandemic, when courtroom attendance has been limited to allow for social distancing. A coalition of media organizations has requested camera access, arguing that cameras would increase transparency. Kirtley, part of the coalition, said any concerns that cameras would be disruptive can be managed by the judge. Livestreaming proceedings to the court’s YouTube channel could be an option, which other states have chosen to do during the pandemic. Raleigh Hannah Levine, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said many state courts have allowed cameras and concerns raised by Minnesota prosecutors have been largely non-issues.

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