Attorneys for the police officers charged in the George Floyd case have asked Attorney General Keith Ellison to be held in contempt for violating the gag order. Ellison released a statement on Monday stating that four “seasoned attorneys” will help prosecute the case pro bono.
Judge Peter Cahill issued a gag order last week that pretrial publicity risked swaying the jury pool which “will impair all parties’ right to a fair trial.” Thomas Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, stated that Ellison’s statement was a violation of the gag order as it was “an obvious statement to the public that these ‘super stars’ believe that our clients are guilty.”
Eric Nelson, lawyer to Derek Chauvin said that the pretrial publicity has only helped the prosecutors with some public officials referring to the case as a murder. He issued a statement saying that “the Constitutional right to a fair and public trial by an impartial jury belongs to the Defendant – not the State.”
Three of the defendants’ attorneys asked for the gag order to be lifted as no pretrial publicity has been in favor of their clients, for instance, citing the actions of the police officers as those done in the line of duty or espousing the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”. Bob Paule, attorney to Tou Thao said that there was no justification for a gag order as public statements will not interfere with the case as long as Judge Peter Cahill’s earlier warnings are heeded.
Chauvin, who was responding to a call regarding a counterfeited $20 bill allegedly held a knee against Floyd’s neck for eight minutes causing asphyxiation leading to death and has been charged with second-degree murder while three other offices on the scene, Thao, Lane, and J. Kueng, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All of the officers were fired following reports of the incident.
The incident has sparked one of the strongest movements in recent years with protests across the world.
Meanwhile, when recently asked about black Americans being targets of police brutality, U.S President Donald Trump said that, “So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people”, referring to the raw number which does not take into account the rate of police brutalities according to the population size of ethnicities, and neither taking into account the cases of police brutalities being perpetrated as hate crimes.
In a transcript it was recently revealed that while holding Floyd down, Chauvin told him that it “takes a lot of oxygen to talk.” Amid the outrage calls for reforms to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety department have been made and have gained the support of a majority of City Council members. The case would require a change in the city’s charter and could go to vote in November.
Changes have been made across the board in many sectors with the public demanding for accountability. A recent example is Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania state signing two bills, one demanding transparency for officers’ employment history including disciplinary action, and the other calling for regular mental health screenings of officers.
More details have come to light since the writing of this article including the release of the Police body camera footage.