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Judge lifts gag order on former Minneapolis officers charged in George Floyd's death

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A judge has lifted the gag order in the high-profile cases of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd.

The hearing on Tuesday followed a July 9 order from Judge Peter Cahill, barring the defendants — Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Kiernan Lane and Tou Thao — and all attorneys to not speak publicly about the cases. All four defendants’ lawyers filed a motion to lift, or an objection to, the gag order.

In vacating the gag order, Cahill said the defendants were persuasive in their argument that they have a right to respond to “pretrial statements to meet negative publicity,” according to pool reports.

“The gag order didn’t work,” Cahill added, as the media had been relying on “anonymous sources and other material.”

At the hearing, Kueng’s attorney was also seeking the public release of footage from Lane’s body camera in connection with a motion to dismiss Kueng’s charges. Last week, footage from Lane and Kueng’s body cameras became available to view by appointment only, but cannot be distributed. A coalition of media organizations also made a motion to release the footage.

Cahill did not decide on the release of the footage Tuesday. He has 90 days to do so, but said that he expects to make it before that deadline.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. He remains in custody and appeared in court via video.

Lane, Kueng and Thao are all charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder and second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter. All three are currently out on bail and appeared in person at the downtown Minneapolis courthouse.

Audio transcripts of body cameras worn by the former officers were released earlier this month, after Lane’s attorney filed a motion to release them in support of a motion to dismiss charges against him.

Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, has argued that the newly released transcripts show there was no probable cause to prove Lane committed a crime.

The former officers have not yet formally entered a plea.

Cahill has scheduled a trial date for March 8, 2021. The judge has yet to decide if the men will be tried separately or together.

The court is currently exploring allowing audio and video coverage of the trial. At Tuesday’s hearing, all defense attorneys were in favor of that, according to pool reports. Cahill had earlier denied cameras at the pretrial hearings.

Floyd, a Black man, was arrested on May 25 outside a convenience store in Minneapolis and accused of using counterfeit money to purchase cigarettes, according to police.

During the arrests, Chauvin, a 44-year-old white police officer, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, according to the criminal complaint. Floyd repeatedly called out, “I can’t breathe,” before he lost consciousness, according to a criminal complaint. Floyd was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Lane, 37, allegedly held Floyd’s legs down while Kueng, 26, allegedly held Floyd’s back as Chauvin allegedly dug his knee into Floyd’s neck, the criminal complaint said. Thao, 34, allegedly watched the entire incident with his hands in his pockets, according to the complaint.

Floyd’s arrest was captured on a bystander’s cellphone. The video was posted on Facebook and went viral, sparking protests against police brutality in Minneapolis and across the nation.

The four officers were fired from the police department. Two of them, Lane and Kueng, were rookies.

Bill Hutchinson, Janel Klein and Ella Torres contributed to this report.

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