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?

  • 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 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 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. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.