Jurisdiction not camera shy

July 31, 2008
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Indianapolis documentary filmmaker Karen Grau’s request to film juvenile court proceedings in Lake County has been granted by the Indiana Supreme Court. Grau is no stranger to Indiana’s juvenile courts, as she has already worked on several documentaries with Lake Juvenile Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, whose courtroom will be featured again in this latest documentary.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said the court agreed to allow Grau’s cameras in again with the understanding her six-part series would shed light on the concerns facing the courts and children served by the court. Keeping people informed about the issues facing the juvenile justice system is a valid reason to allow proceedings to be taped, he said.

Grau has been allowed access to Indiana’s courtrooms numerous times over the years and has managed to always find participants willing to sign release forms to be in documentaries.

Indiana’s Cameras in the Courtroom pilot project that wrapped up at the end of last year wasn’t so lucky. In the project’s 18-month span, only six proceedings in the eight designated courts were filmed. Getting consent from all the parties – especially from defendants – proved difficult.

What is it about Grau’s documentaries that allow her to find participants, whereas the Supreme Court’s pilot project struggled to get just six proceedings taped? Is it that there is hope that filming juvenile proceedings will cause other young people to straighten up before they commit crimes or become criminals as adults, whereas the cameras in the courtroom project will be more of an informational tool for the general public about how the courts system works?

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