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Judge Ends Gag Order Surrounding Trial Of 4 Officers Accused In George Floyd's Death

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A judge has ended a gag order surrounding the trial of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd.

All four officers involved in the death of George Floyd appeared in court Tuesday, one virtually. Derek Chauvin was connected remotely, but the other three -- Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng -- are out on bail and appeared in person on Tuesday.

Chauvin faces the most serious charges, including second-degree murder.

Judge Peter Cahill decided to vacate the gag order because, in part, it would be unfair to gag the defense when they have had no chance to respond to negative publicity directed at the four officers. None of the defense attorneys wanted the gag order to stay in place.

Even still, Cahill said he still expects all lawyers in the case to follow the rules on disclosing information.

Tuesday's hearing also addressed access to body-worn camera footage of the incident that ended with Floyd's death. An attorney for a media coalition that includes WCCO argued that journalists need to be able to copy the video, and have a right to, arguing that transcripts are already out and bystander video is already readily available to potential jurors.

"We have the bystander cell phone video, we have transcripts of the body camera footage, and we have summaries from journalists who've watched the body camera footage by appointment, so the media coalition's view is the media itself should be made widely available," attorney Leita Walker said.

Cahill said the court had a duty to limit prejudicial pre-trial publicity, saying the "internet never forgets."

One of the defense attorneys, Earl Gray, said he wants the body camera footage released as well because, according to him, the media has been "substantially unfair" to his client.

Cahill said that he had 90 days to decide on the issue, but planned to issue a decision sooner than that.

Also, on the issue of holding Attorney General Keith Ellison in contempt, something defense attorneys were pursuing, the judge ruled he would not sanction Ellison, as press statements made by the prosecutor were not an attempt to intimidate the court.

During the hearing, Thou's attorney Robert Paule asked for a change of venue.

Cahill also said he is still considering allowing audio and video in the trial, as COVID-19 may end up making that a necessity.

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