The Minnesota court overseeing the trial of the Minnesota police officers accused in the death of George Floyd recently entered an order permitting the trial to be televised. In doing so, the court exercised some good sense rather than a slavish adherence to the letter of the rules.
Derek Chauvin and three other officers are due to stand trial in March, 2021 on charges stemming from their involvement in the death of George Floyd earlier this year. It is expected that the trial will be of enormous public interest.
In Minnesota, General Rule of Practice 4 generally prohibits audio and video recording of trials. But the rule allows it if all parties consent. In this case, the prosecutors objected to televising the event. But that didn’t end the inquiry.
The court noted two overall considerations. First, it pointed out that while the public has a right to attend and observe trials, there is typically not a right to have trials televised. The court noted that people who want to observe typically come to the courtroom and do so. And for those who can’t, the press can provide coverage.
But in this trial, those assumptions don’t apply so easily. Some of those concerns are pretty mundane. With four defendants, there’s less room for spectators in the court room. And assuming that Covid related social distancing likely will continue to be a thing in 2021, the situation will be even worse. And those space limitations are made more apparent in a trial such as this one, where a whole lot of people will be jockeying for position in the courtroom.
The court noted that at a September motion hearing only a handful of family and media could fit in the room. Based on all of those factors, the court decided to permit televising the trial, subject to limitations on where the cameras can be located, and what can be shot. For example, the jurors can’t be shown, nor can Mr. Floyd’s family members.
People across our country, if not the world, will want to see if justice is done here. And the good news is, in a trial where the whole world will be watching, the whole world can watch.