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. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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