MINNEAPOLIS -- The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd opened court Wednesday by threatening to remove a media pool and shut down a media center over some reporting on the case.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill was visibly angry as he described a pool report that included a reporter's attempts to read notepads at the defense and prosecution tables, as well as describing security on the courthouse floor where the trial is taking place.
“That is absolutely inappropriate,” the judge said of the attempts to read notepads, ordering that any reporters in the courtroom must refrain from doing so. He called reporting on security “completely irresponsible.”
Former officer Derek Chauvin's trial is taking place under extraordinary circumstances due the pandemic, with plastic shields placed around the courtroom, socially distancing and masks worn most of the time. The trial is being livestreamed, a rarity in Minnesota, and only two journalists are being allowed each day as pool reporters.
Cahill said any media that have posted details about security on the floor should take them down, and that failure to do so could result in them being kicked out of the media center.
The judge did not name any reporters or media organizations.
Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said it's appropriate for news organizations to report generally about security but that they should avoid reporting specifics.
“Ultimately, it is in the best interest of the public that the jury selection and the trial itself proceed safely,” she said.
As for looking at notebooks, Kirtley said journalists have a right to report what they can see in the courtroom.
“It is up to the attorneys to secure their communications inside the courtroom, which is a public space,” she said.