For first time ever, cameras to be allowed in court for Minnesota trial

Ryan Raiche
Updated: November 05, 2020 06:50 PM
Created: November 05, 2020 05:07 PM

For the first time in Minnesota’s history, cameras will be allowed in the courtroom to record every minute of a high-profile criminal trial.

Judge Peter Cahill released an order on Thursday announcing the decision for the trial of four Minneapolis Police officers charged in George Floyd's death, citing the ongoing pandemic and concerns over social distancing.

Unlike most state courts around the country, Minnesota does not allow media organizations to take video or photographs inside courtrooms. The courts recently began allowing cameras during sentencing, if approved by the judge.

But a criminal trial has never been recorded on camera.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Judge Kevin Burke, who retired from the bench this fall after 36 years. “There is no question there at Minnesota, there has been a drift toward being more open and transparent.”

Judge in Floyd case issues number of orders, including ruling on joint trial, change of venue

Burke said in the past, there had been concerns about cameras in court being a distraction, but he believes technology and smaller cameras have put that complaint to bed.

In his order, Judge Cahill said no jurors are allowed to be shown on camera, and George Floyd’s family is also off-limits unless they provide written consent in advance.

But he is allowing the footage to be streamed live, like the O.J. Simpson trial 25 years ago.

“I believe that cameras in the courtroom was why the American public understood the jury verdict and O.J. Simpson,” Burke said. “And it made sense.”

Transparency advocates will be watching to see if this case sets a precedent in Minnesota.

The move in Minnesota matches a slow move to more transparency on the federal level. For instance, it wasn’t until this year that the United States Supreme Court allowed audio of the oral arguments to be recorded and broadcast live.


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