A Hennepin County judge has ordered the public release of body camera video from the night George Floyd was killed after a challenge by a coalition of local and national media companies, including the Star Tribune.
In a ruling issued Friday, Judge Peter Cahill wrote that “Members of the Media Coalition, as well as other media and members of the public, may obtain copies” of the footage from the body cameras worn by ex-Minneapolis police officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng at the scene of Floyd’s May 25 death. Cahill’s order did not elaborate on the rationale for his ruling, nor on how or when the footage would be released.
Last month, Lane’s attorney Earl Gray filed two body-worn camera videos as evidence supporting his motion to dismiss the charges against his client, making it public data, according to state law.
Initially Cahill allowed the footage to be viewable only by appointment on July 15 in the Hennepin County Government Center downtown but did not allow its recording or distribution, a decision the media coalition argued violates state laws governing public records, court rules and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“The Media Coalition requests that the Court … immediately make the [body-worn camera] footage available for copying by the press and public so that it may be widely viewed not just by those who have the time and wherewithal to visit the courthouse during a global pandemic but by all members of the public concerned about the administration of justice in one of the most important, and most-watched cases, this State — perhaps this country — has ever seen,” said the motion written by attorneys Leita Walker and Emmy Parsons. They argued the motion in court July 21.
The media coalition also included American Public Media, which owns Minnesota Public Radio; the Associated Press; CBS Broadcasting Inc.; Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal; Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns KSTP-TV, and the New York Times Co., among others.
Last week, British media company the Daily Mail published leaked portions of the video.
The footage was recorded by Lane and Kueng, rookies whose attorneys have argued that they were deferring to officer Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran, as they pressed on Floyd as he lay handcuffed stomach-down in the street complaining he couldn’t breathe.
Lane was holding onto Floyd’s feet and Kueng was holding onto his back while Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as bystanders pleaded with the officers to stop.
Former officer Tou Thao kept bystanders at bay and rebuffed their concerns. The killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, set off protests around the world.
Chauvin is charged with one count each of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Kueng, Lane and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.