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Possible Broadcast Coverage of Upcoming George Floyd Case Causes Debate

  • Birdsall Obear

Recent controversy has circulated, as the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines has led to live court hearings being livestreamed via YouTube. Meanwhile, the high-profile trial of former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Kueng is coming up in March, and broadcast coverage of the court proceeding is being debated.

Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, while Kueng, Thao and Lane are charged with aiding and abetting murder. All four men were fired by the Minneapolis police department. 

Media organizations such as The Associated Press have requested camera access to the trial, with the belief they can aid in creating a more informed public amid the current pandemic.  

Judge Peter Cahill who is assigned to the case, must still decide if cameras will be permitted inside the courtroom. In June, Cahill stated he would not be permitting audio or visual recordings of pretrial proceedings, as he believed it could impact the jury pool. However, Cahill has yet to make a decision regarding audio and visual coverage of the upcoming trial. The state attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case, and has stated their opposition to cameras, with the belief recordings would cause issues. 

Prosecutors have resisted to broadcast coverage as well, with worries it could alter the way lawyers present evidence and result in more media scrutiny for witnesses and participants. 

Meanwhile, all four former officers as well as their defense attorneys have voiced their support for cameras being present inside the courtroom. The defense attorneys have insisted broadcasting the trial would ensure candidness and fairness, during a time when courtroom attendance is limited in adherence to social distancing measures.  

Other individuals advocating for audio and visual coverage of the trial assert that due to the widespread coverage of Floyd’s fatal arrest and the outrage that followed, it is necessary to grant the public access to the trial from beginning to end and we could not agree more.  There is a constitutional right to a public trial and cameras must be allowed to maintain those rights.  

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