An attorney representing one of the four ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's death wants to block Facebook videos of the incident from being played at his client's August trial.
Defense attorney Thomas Plunkett filed a motion late Monday regarding the videos in J. Alexander Kueng's case. It was made public Tuesday, and does not apply to the March 8 trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.
Plunkett asked Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to prohibit prosecutors from "playing videos known as 'the Facebook videos' " because they are "irrelevant."
Plunkett's motion did not specifically mention Frazier's video; it's unknown how many Facebook videos have been gathered as evidence. While police bodycam video showed at least one other bystander recording the incident, Frazier's video was the lightning rod for protests in Minnesota and across the world against police use-of-force.
"The videos are irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial because they do not show what Kueng and [ex-officer Thomas Lane] actually perceived and saw during Mr. Floyd's arrest and will have a tendency to distort what the officer perceptions were on those matters," Plunkett wrote in his motion without elaborating further on the origins or content of the videos in question.
Plunkett declined to comment Tuesday.
Kueng, Lane and ex-officer Tou Thao are scheduled to be tried in one trial Aug. 23. They are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Chauvin is scheduled to stand trial March 8 on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
All four, who were fired, are out on bond. Attorneys for the other three defendants have not weighed in on whether the Facebook videos should be admitted as evidence in their client's trial.
Floyd's relatives and an attorney for the family did not return messages seeking comment.
Frazier's video has become the public image of Floyd's death, showing him begging for breath and calling out for his late mother while Chauvin knelt on his neck, and then going limp and silent. Out of the camera's view and obscured behind a squad car, Kueng knelt on Floyd's back while Lane knelt and held onto his legs. Thao controlled an angry crowd.
"The Frazier film has been seared into the minds of Minnesotans, Americans and people all across the globe," said Kelley Jackson, a spokeswoman for Frazier and her family. "It launched a racial reckoning that has opened up a Pandora's box on the treatment of Black bodies, Black lives and Black futures, not only in their treatment by police, but in corporate America, in healthcare, in entertainment, diversity and inclusion, wealth, housing, internal bias and how pervasive anti-Blackness is in every aspect of American life.
"Try as they might, but you can't put the genie back on the bottle."
Frazier's attorney, Seth Cobin, said the video is integral to the case.
"A video that shows the murder is incredibly relevant to the murder itself," Cobin said. "It's an image that galvanized the entire planet."
Plunkett's motion was not a surprise, said Cobin, who is a criminal defense attorney.
"If you're a defense attorney," he said, "you're doing everything you can to bring up every single barrier you can because your client is looking at a long time in prison."
Last December, Frazier was awarded the Benenson Courage Award from PEN America for the video.
"With nothing more than a cellphone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history in this country, sparking a bold movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and violence at the hands of police," PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said last year.
Last May, Frazier told the Star Tribune that she started recording "as soon as I heard him trying to fight for his life."
"It was like a natural instinct, honestly," said Frazier. "The world needed to see what I was seeing. Stuff like this happens in silence too many times."
Frazier said at the time that she hoped her video would bring about "peace and equality." Her actions exemplify the power of technology in holding police accountable, Cobin said.
"This is a tool that people are using to fight back," he said. "The rest of the world woke up the next morning to see this [in] the headlines."
Frazier has been subpoenaed to testify at Chauvin's trial, Cobin said.
"My client and her family's life have been forever changed, as well as George Floyd's family," Jackson said. "The world has changed been forever changed because of her video. That video tells the entire story, unvarnished, and is a permanent record of history."
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-270-4708