On Wednesday afternoon, when Charles McMillian, a witness to the death of George Floyd, broke down while recounting what he saw last May, Judge Peter Cahill called a short recess to allow Mr. McMillian to compose himself.
I was the pool reporter in the courtroom, and I walked into the hallway and sat down next to Rodney Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s youngest brother who came from Houston to attend that day’s testimony.
Mr. Floyd was in tears, after sitting through another presentation of video footage of his brother’s death. I explained to him that I was representing the news media that day and asked him if he wished to share anything with me about how he was feeling, which I would then in turn share with the rest of the news media — and then of course the wider world — or if he wished that I would leave him in silence.
He said he wished to talk, and as soon as I took out my notebook, a sheriff’s deputy walked over and said we were not allowed to talk.
It was the second time this has happened to me during the trial. One day during jury selection, I began speaking with Angela Harrrelson, Mr. Floyd’s aunt, whom I had met last summer at a pretrial hearing — and again a sheriff’s deputy intervened.
Lawyers who represent a number of news organizations, including The New York Times, have raised concerns with the court about its strict rules prohibiting the Floyd family from speaking to the news media outside the courtroom.
Toddrick Barnette, the chief judge for Hennepin County, sets the rules about access and security. He declined to comment.
Because of the pandemic restrictions that have severely limited attendance at the trial, on most days the only people allowed in to the room who are not either jurors or parties to the case are three people: a reporter representing digital media outlets; a reporter for the broadcast media; and a member of the Floyd family. (The court has also designated one seat for the family for Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murder in Mr. Floyd’s death, but so far no one from the Chauvin family has attended.)