Attorneys for George Floyd's family expressed disappointment Tuesday that his family will be allowed to have only one relative at a time in the courtroom when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is tried next week in his killing.
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci issued a brief written statement addressing courtroom seating that will be severely limited because of COVID-19 safety protocols. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill issued an order Monday limiting both Floyd and Chauvin to one family member each in the trial courtroom.
"This has been a deeply painful and emotional year for every member of the Floyd family, many of whom intended to be in the courtroom to witness this trial," said the statement from Crump and Romanucci. "While they understand the judge's reasons to limit attendance in the courtroom, the family is understandably disappointed by this ruling.
"The family is looking forward to the start of the trial as a critical milestone on the path to justice and a step toward closure in this dark chapter of their lives."
Chauvin's trial is scheduled to begin March 8 with jury selection; opening statements and testimony are scheduled to start March 29. He is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Cahill ordered that different family members can rotate through the designated seat if they have "the appropriate credentials" to be admitted to the 18th floor of the courthouse, where the trial will take place.
Family members will be prohibited from using electronic devices on the floor, which will be tightly monitored by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.
COVID-19 safety protocols, including social distancing, have significantly altered how the trial will proceed and how many people will be allowed in the trial courtroom, which has been outfitted with see-through partitions to protect people.
Spectators allowed into the courtroom will sit in assigned seats, wear masks, sit 6 feet apart and observe other safety measures, according to Cahill's order.
Spectators may not wear masks or other clothing bearing images, logos, letters or numbers, the judge ruled.
"Spectators shall not communicate verbally or non-verbally with the Court or with jurors or potential jurors," the judge wrote.
Cahill previously split Chauvin's trial apart from the trial of his former colleagues and co-defendants — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — because the county's largest courtroom could not accommodate them all while observing COVID protocols.
Kueng, Lane and Thao will be tried in one trial starting Aug. 23. They are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. All four defendants, who were fired, are out on bond.
Cahill also took the unprecedented step of allowing Chauvin's trial to be livestreamed because courtroom seating would be so limited because of COVID.
The court created a workspace in a different building for journalists reporting on the trial. Two reporters will be allowed into the trial courtroom each day on a rotation basis representing several local, national and international print, TV, radio and online media outlets.