Judge issues gag order in George Floyd case

Hennepin County Jail/MGN (l-r) Derek Chauvin, J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao

Following a warning to attorneys and state officials two weeks ago, the judge in the George Floyd case made good on a threat to issue a gag order. Judge Peter Cahill filed the order in Hennepin County District Court on Thursday citing concern that pre-trial publicity by attorneys could hinder the parties’ rights to a fair trial.

The order, which applies to “all parties, attorneys, their employees, agents, or independent contractors,” was issued after the judge was made aware of attorneys speaking to the media on Wednesday following a filing of a motion to dismiss charges against former officer Thomas Lane.

All four fired MPD officers last appeared in court on June 29. Derek Chauvin, charged with Floyd’s murder, appeared via video while the remaining officers Lane, J Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao appeared in person. At the time, the judge warned that if public comments by attorneys continued, he would issue a gag order or grant a change-of-venue for the trial.

Chauvin was the officer seen in videos shot by onlookers pinning Floyd against the pavement with his knee until he became unresponsive. He is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, submitted more than 100 pages of evidence on Wednesday to support the motion to dismiss charges against his client. The evidence was comprised of police body-cam transcriptions and Lane’s interview with the state BCA.

The basis of Lane’s motion rests on him being a rookie who was relying on the expertise of Chauvin, his superior. The evidence submitted shows that Lane, who held Floyd’s legs, asked twice to turn Floyd over on his side but Chauvin refused. Lane also performed chest compressions on Floyd in the ambulance at the request of EMS.

The evidence also provides other details about Floyd’s last moments. For example, Floyd insisted that he couldn’t breathe at least 20 times during his encounter with the police. At one point, he pleads, “You’re going to kill me, man.” Chauvin replies, “Then stop talking… It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”

The next court date for Lane and the other former officers is set for September 11, with a tentative trial date set for March 8, 2021. Experts said it’s likely that the officers will have separate trials.