July 21, 2020 / 11:13 AM / 19 days ago

Minneapolis judge lifts gag order in George Floyd case

FILE PHOTO: Robert Paule, Tou Thao's lawyer, addresses the media after an omnibus court hearing in the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi/File Photo

(Reuters) - A Minneapolis judge granted a request by attorneys and media companies and lifted a gag order on Tuesday in the case against four police officers accused of killing George Floyd, which launched the latest wave of a global anti-racism movement.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said his July 9 order banning parties from speaking publicly about the case and restricting access to case records “didn’t work” as intended.

Cahill said he was persuaded by motions submitted by attorneys for the former officers who argued that the gag order was unfair to their clients and limited the lawyers’ ability to defend them from negative publicity.

Several local and national news organizations also argued the gag order intruded on their constitutional free speech rights.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with second-degree murder after he pinned his knee into Floyd’s neck on May 25 when he and the three other former policemen were arresting Floyd in a Minneapolis neighborhood. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The incident, which bystanders caught on video, sparked worldwide protests against racism and calls for police reforms nationwide that are still going on.

J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane, the three former officers charged with aiding and abetting, were in court with their attorneys. Chauvin watched the hearing on a video feed.

Cahill made no decision on a request for recordings from the officers’ body cameras to be released to the public. News organizations have been able to view the footage by appointment only.

Cahill also ruled that he would not hold lead prosecutor Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in contempt, as two defense attorneys requested after he released a statement announcing that additional attorneys would help with the prosecution.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; editing by Bill Tarrant, Leslie Adler and David Gregorio

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