Televising local trials

July 13, 2011
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The Casey Anthony trial was broadcast on local stations in Orlando and streamed over the Internet, allowing the general public access to something that typically only a handful could see if they could get a seat in the courtroom. Some stations broadcast the trial over the air while it was happening, and some just did frequent updates and streamed it live online. I assume this case was broadcast and picked up by every local station because of the national attention the case has garnered. (Thanks Nancy Grace).
 
Florida has allowed cameras and recording equipment in its courtrooms for more than two decades. According to The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information,  cameras can't be excluded just because they make participants nervous or self-conscious, but a judge can ban cameras if the person seeking the ban can prove the camera presence would have a "substantial effect" on a trial participant that would be "qualitatively different" from coverage by other media. Criminal defendants have to prove that the cameras would prevent him/her from getting a fair trial.

People watched the trial and formed their own opinions about whether Anthony was guilty of killing her daughter. Perhaps they even formed those opinions before the trial started. But when the verdict came back in Anthony’s favor, some people went crazy. People threatened the jury, even claiming they were killers for not convicting Anthony. News reports say one juror has quit her job and may relocate out of fear. A woman in a different state with the same name of one of the jurors who has spoken publicly has been received threatening calls and messages from people. With the advent of social media, it becomes easier to voice your opinion, find those who are like-minded, and find out information about people. As far as I know, the judge still hasn’t released the names of the jurors. He has said he was waiting in hopes people will calm down before he does.

I am in favor of allowing cameras in the courtroom. Letting people see how trials are conducted can educate people and even prepare those who may find themselves involved in one in the future. If the general public is responsible for electing or retaining a judge, then they should be able to see that judge in action.

If you watch a trial from start to finish, you’ll formulate an opinion. But your opinion doesn’t matter. What matters is the opinion of those 12 jurors (or judge). In this case, the jurors came back after 10 hours and said the prosecution didn’t prove its case on the murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, or aggravated child abuse charges. The jurors only convicted Anthony of four counts of providing false information to law enforcement officers.

The circus that this case became (again, thanks Nancy Grace) has led to people being fearful for doing their civic duty and serving on the jury. This could support the argument that trials should be closed off to cameras, although with social media, there is still a way to disseminate information quickly and to the masses. While I don’t doubt that some people would be as adamant about their opinion on the case without it being broadcast on television, more people were ultimately exposed to the case by showing it on TV – locally and nationally.

What are your thoughts about allowing cameras into the courtroom?

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  • Thanks Nancy Grace!
    I would agree with your premise that cameras in court can be an educational experience for the viewing public. However, Nancy Grace's backseat driving (her allegiance to the prosecutorial side of the bench 100 % of the time is inexcusable and inflammatory, and she is completely unapologetic for her role in making public enemy #1 out of the people who had to actually interpret the evidence and apply the high standard of reasonable doubt...she is a disgrace to the attorney profession, and should be dissbarred, and her so called commentary experts who were all completely wrong about everything are still collecting their checks for fanning the flames of public sentiment)in the Anthony case, and other cases, is proof that when a criminal case becomes a media event, the people who should know to behave responsibly, and who should understand that it is an adversarial process, can't be trusted to behave in any manner other than what serves their own selfish interest. Mr. Baez was a buffoon according to the experts...now he and the Judge are apparently the next people to capitalize on being media stars, weighing offers left and right. Do you honestly think the lawyers in this high profile case acquitted themselves with professional dignity? I certainly don't...I think Mr. Baez and the prosecutor were auditioning to be the next experts/TV stars on Nancy and Greta's shows...Business has been pretty good for people like Geoff Fieger, Mark Geragos, Gloria Allred, all the OJ lawyers, after high profile cases plus TV gigs...some, like Barry Scheck, have done some good things with their notoriety...but most have just gone to the bank, and have not educated the public about much of anything. It is just reality television, and cheaper to produce than even "16 and Pregnant" or "Teen Mom".
    My point is this...most people think the lawyer profession is less than honorable to begin with (a bias that goes back to the biblical times by the way), and no one in the Anthony case provided any evidence to the contrary. Their grandstanding and playing to the cameras was obvious throughout...so while in theory your contention that cameras in the courtroom are potentially educational is valid, in practice I doubt we can trust the particpants to behave with the professionalism the courtroom deserves if a camera is there...they will all be auditioning for their TV Gig or to be the next Judge Judy...most lawyers are good with words, and are actors anyway...they would intuitively understand that the public wants entertainment. How many people do you think are going to come in and watch an exciting Civil Tort, or small claim case? How many folks would watch court in a situation where they televise indigents with public defenders signing their plea bargains...the grist that keeps the judicial mill running? The answer is not many...and that is the reality for 90 plus % of people involved in the criminal justice system. That is the truth, and the Anthony trial is just the latest myth served up by the media, because, as Colonel Jessup says in "A Few Good Men", "You can't handle the truth"...the people who watched wanted Nancy Grace's version of the truth in that case, but they don't really want to know about the judicial system...the parties that watch are not interested in being educated in reality, and the media are interested in ratings and advertizing time sold. Period. Not exactly a fertile environment for "education".

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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