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Indiana courts take backseat on camera study

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As yet another study concerning cameras in the courtroom is about to begin, Indiana doesn’t appear to be anywhere closer to allowing cameras in its state or federal trial-level courtrooms.

While the federal judiciary and other states move forward on studying whether cameras should be allowed in courtrooms, the Hoosier legal community waits and remains cautious about moving forward or putting a policy in place.

The Indiana Supreme Court conducted a limited 18-month pilot project and has been studying the issue, but it has not released a decision based on a final report it received March 31, 2008. Meanwhile, a recent pilot project at the federal level is moving forward and District courts throughout the country are being asked to volunteer and allow some cases to be filmed.

In September, the federal judiciary’s policy-making arm, the Judicial Conference of the United States, authorized a pilot project allowing cameras in some District courts. Recording will be limited to civil cases at the trial judge’s discretion, and all parties must give their consent. The recordings will be publicly available on the federal court’s website and local District sites. An exact length for the project hasn’t been determined, but it’s expected to stretch at least three years with the Federal Judicial Center conducting a study in the initial years and issuing a report.

Volunteers are being accepted for the next couple months. Due to ongoing congressional budget issues and fiscal constraints, courts that already have existing audio and videoconferencing are encouraged to use that equipment.

“We especially want to ensure that judges who hold a range of views on the recording of courtroom proceedings will participate,” said U.S. Judge Julie A. Robinson from the District of Kansas, who chairs the conference’s Committee on Court Administration and Case Management. “It’s important to the validity of this project to include the skeptical as well as the supportive.”

Both of Indiana’s federal courts say they aren’t going to participate, but neither group of District judges say they are opposed to the idea of having cameras in the courtrooms.

“We’ve decided not to participate in the pilot project, although it wasn’t a reflection of any general attitude against cameras in courts,” Chief Judge Philip Simon said in the Northern District. “There’s mixed views among my colleagues, but this was more that we didn’t want to serve as guinea pigs on it. Most are pretty supportive of the project, and we’d like to take a wait-and-see attitude rather than stepping forward and being on the forefront studying that here.”

Chief Judge Simon said he doesn’t personally have a problem with the idea of cameras in courtrooms, but said these issues move slowly because strong feelings and legitimate concerns exist on both sides.

In the Southern District, Chief Judge Richard L. Young said that his colleagues also agreed to stay out of the pilot project, but for a different reason.

“(There was) some discussion at a recent judge’s meeting, but we declined to participate in this pilot project because we were involved in the first one in the early 1990s. This time, other courts should be given the opportunity to participate,” he said.

Despite the decision not to volunteer for this program, Chief Judge Young said consensus among the Southern District judges is that they aren’t opposed to the concept of having cameras in the courts. But they do want to know specifically what the protocols would be to make sure they have the ability to control the process and guarantee the court’s efficiency isn’t impacted.

Chief Judge Young said he’s interested in seeing how this progresses and what districts are chosen to be a part of the pilot project. He expects a good sampling of geography, caseload, and size, reflecting all of the potential issues that might surface. For example, the Southern District of New York encompasses New York City and might not be as able to have a local TV affiliate spend time filming in court as compared to a place like the Southern District of Indiana’s Evansville division, he said.

“They are just different markets, and we need to see how that all fits together in creating a policy like this nationally,” he said.

Cameras have been banned in federal courts since 1994 and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure bar them from being used in criminal proceedings. This is the first time in about two decades the federal judiciary has changed its policy on allowing cameras in the courts. Recent changes in the makeup of the judiciary may have helped play a part in that. U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have both joined the court in the past two years and support the concept of cameras in the courtrooms, though some justices still express their opposition and concern.

“Technology has changed so much and you just didn’t have social media networks and things like Facebook in the 90s,” Chief Judge Young said. “We want to see how this plays out now, in this new world of public access.”

What impact any federal judiciary action may have on state decision-making about cameras in courts remains to be seen.

About two dozen states allow cameras to record trial-level proceedings in some way. There has been a push in recent years for further study of the issue. Earlier this year, Minnesota allowed a pilot project similar to what Indiana allowed from July 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2007. That Indiana pilot was limited – six proceedings were recorded in eight courts statewide.

A final report was submitted three years ago, but Indiana’s top court hasn’t budged on the topic. Two requests have been submitted since then asking for a new smaller study and a webcast in some Lake County civil proceedings. However, Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo, who was heading the webcasting proposal, retired, as have others interested in being a part of the second state pilot project.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard has said that the report submitted in 2008 didn’t propel the court in any particular direction, but was just one piece of useful data to compare to everything else. A lingering question has been about the balance between public information and relative burden that still exists, and the chief justice has told Indiana Lawyer that the court doesn’t have enough data to move forward.

As of March 2011, court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said the court continues studying both requests in conjunction with the first pilot project evaluation but hasn’t yet made a decision. Those looking for guidance on the issue say the clear message from the court has been that not enough data exists at this time, and that is what is driving the subsequent requests for further study.

“At this point, it’s wait and see,” said Indianapolis attorney Dan Byron, who represents the Indiana Broadcasters Association. “Our feeling has been that we didn’t have sufficient data from that (first) project, and so allowing this new pilot would allow full trials to be televised in a smaller group so that we can move forward.”•

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  1. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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