The ACLU of Minnesota Monday asked the state Court of Appeals to act quickly to protect freedom of the press by granting the Daily Mail media credentials to cover the Derek Chauvin trial.
The ACLU-MN sent a letter to the state Court of Appeals Monday, asking to participate as amicus curiae (a friend of the court) in the case, and requesting that the Court consider the letter as the amicus submission in lieu of a formal brief, given the short timeline.
Last August, the Daily Mail published police body-camera video from the day of George Floyd’s murder. The trial judge had allowed the public to view that footage in-person, but initially forbade its transmission or recording. Subsequently, the judge allowed broadcasting of the video, acknowledging it should be accessible to the public and the media. In the interim, a third-party leaked the footage to the Daily Mail, which published a story with the video shortly before the judge rescinded the order barring publication of the footage.
Several months later, on March 24, 2021, Hennepin County Chief Judge Barnette denied media credentials to the Daily Mail, denying its reporters access to trial exhibits, the media center and media updates as punishment for its publication of the video.
There’s no evidence showing the Daily Mail played any role in copying the video, nor did the company violate any law or court order to obtain it.
“The issues in this case affect interests extending far beyond the individual parties in this case,” the ACLU of Minnesota’s letter to the state Court of Appeals said. “A decision in this case will affect other individuals and entities who seek to cover trial proceedings throughout the State of Minnesota.”
The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing.
The ACLU has played a central role in defending the freedom of the press, from our role in the landmark Pentagon Papers case to our advocacy for a new media shield law. When press freedom is harmed, it is much harder to hold our government accountable when it missteps or overreaches.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to protect and promote the rights of all Minnesotans through litigation, legislation and community engagement.