Media coalition, state oppose former MPD officers’ motions to exclude audio, video from courtroom

Attorneys representing the media coalition—which includes local and national media—and the state of Minnesota are opposing Thomas Lane’s and J Alexander Kueng’s motions attempting to block audio and video recordings from the courtroom for their upcoming trial.

Last week, attorneys representing both former officers filed the motions to prohibit any live video or audio coverage, stating that both have now withdrawn their consent.

According to court documents, the media coalition stated four facts to back up their reasoning:

  • The pandemic still presents a potential risk.
  • There are many reasons witnesses may not want to testify, aside from the audio and video aspects.
  • The case and witnesses who testify will be the focus of intense press and public scrutiny no matter whether audio and visual coverage of the trial is allowed.
  • The press and public have a First Amendment right of access to the courtroom.

The attorneys also wrote that for the defense to address the audio and video coverage situation, they are using it as "an illogical scapegoat for the challenges" they face. The defense had argued during Derek Chauvin’s trial that finding an impartial jury was impossible due to the event’s live coverage.

"Standing alone, the statement suggests that so many people followed Mr. Chauvin’s trial and formed opinions regarding the culpability of those involved in George Floyd’s death that it will be all but impossible to empanel an impartial jury. Even assuming that’s true (and the Media Coalition takes no position), excluding coverage from the Defendants’ upcoming trial cannot cure the prejudice Defendants say they suffered from the coverage of Mr. Chauvin’s trial. Come March, potential jurors will join the venire having seen what they saw—whether in print, online, or on television—and the livestreaming of the March trial cannot change that for better or for worse," the attorneys wrote.

Furthermore, the attorneys state that whether the event is livestreamed or not, the event will be covered extensively by media outlets. The media coalition stated it believes the defendant’s claim that witnesses won’t testify if the event is livestreamed is a ridiculous notion, noting the trial and those involved will be covered considerably.

The state, represented by Attorney General Keith Ellison and Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, also submitted a response to the defense’s request. In it, they state their opposition against the motion, saying the argument that removing audio and video coverage will deny them a fair trial is "unconvincing."

"Defendants have provided no concrete evidence that any witness would actually testify for the defense, but for the Court’s order to broadcast these proceedings. Nor do Defendants explain why they cannot use compulsory process to compel a purported reluctant witness to appear," the state wrote.

The state further asks Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to reject their motion.

The motions will be officially be requested in court by the defense on Sept. 9 in front of Cahill.

To see the media coalition’s full filing on Wednesday, click here. To see the state’s full filing on Wednesday, click here.