Radio & Television News Association

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Early marks are high for cameras in courtrooms

Early marks are high for cameras in courtrooms
So far, observers say, change has not been disruptive and attorneys haven't been playing to the lens
By Richard D. Walton
August 21, 2006

From the Indianapolis Star

An experiment to allow cameras in Indiana courtrooms for the first time in decades is getting early high marks and just a few complaints.

Among the results thus far, according to observers:

Attorneys seem to be getting along better and are better prepared.

Fears of lawyers showboating or witnesses being intimidated have proved unfounded.

The cameras generally don't disrupt proceedings.

Yet a few problems have cropped up since Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard announced the program, which on July 1 began allowing video and still cameras in courts in Indianapolis, Evansville and Fort Wayne.

At least one attorney has complained about the difficulty of entering a courtroom because of the assembled media.

Another concern involves the clicking noise that still cameras make. They have caused a few distractions, said Dan Byron, general counsel for the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the chief architect of the terms of the camera project, but the problem can be fixed by using a digital camera with an attachment that muffles sound.

One of the biggest problems, Byron said, is that only about 15 percent of the suspects approached about allowing cameras have consented.

Kenya K. Wright, 27, accused of shooting Indianapolis Police Officer Michael Antonelli in the face last November, had agreed to allow cameras but changed his mind at the last minute. And Desmond Turner, 28, scheduled for trial next year in the June slayings of an Indianapolis family of seven, has rejected cameras.

One defendant who consented was John R. Dean, 40, facing trial in Evansville in the 2004 death of 74-year-old Lloyd Goad.

Dean, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, allowed the cameras for his July hearing partly because he wanted to demonstrate to the community his remorse, said his attorney, Kurt Schnepper.

He said the cameras weren't disruptive. In fact, he forgot about them once the hearing began.
Schnepper said he thinks cameras can help play a watchdog role.

Thanks to the cameras, people can "see what their prosecutor is doing on a day-to-day basis and how their judge performs in court," he said.

Read the rest of the story here.


Post a Comment

<< Home