Media calls on court to ensure access to trial in Floyd’s death | national news


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A coalition of media organizations has asked a federal appeals court to intervene to ensure public access to the trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating the civil rights of George Floyd.

News organizations including The Associated Press on Friday asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn two orders by District Judge Paul Magnuson that they say violated the First Amendment by close the trial part and seal the corresponding transcript.

Monday marked the start of the second week of testimony in the trial, which Magnuson said could last four weeks.

“The Petitioners need not explain to this Court the seriousness of the trial, the impact that Mr. Floyd’s death has had on the Twin Cities and the world, or the continued and intense public concern about how the criminal justice system treats those accused of killing him,” wrote coalition media lawyer Leita Walker. “As a result, it is imperative to ensure that the trial is fully open to the press and public.”

At issue is Magnuson’s closing of a hearing he had scheduled for Jan. 21 on defense motions to exclude certain evidence. Prosecutors and the media coalition opposed the shutdown. Walker wrote that the judge appeared to cancel the hearing, but then held what was first called a “trial management conference” which the court later called “chambers.” Both were conducted privately.

Magnuson dismissed the media coalition’s challenge to the shutdown as “moot” after overturning it. In an order written after being asked to reconsider, he stood by his earlier decision, writing that the chambers proceedings ‘were not a hearing at all’ and that neither the public nor the media had the right to attend. to access.

He also sealed the transcript of the proceedings, which he said were brief and unimportant. Its publication would be “contrary to the effective administration of justice in this matter,” Magnuson wrote.

The coalition asked the 8th Circuit to rescind the shutdown order and unseal the transcript. News agencies have also repeated concerns they raised on the restrictions imposed on journalists and spectators in the courtroom which aim to reduce the risks that a COVID-19 epidemic disrupts the proceedings.


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