Officials lukewarm to cameras in court | Heralrepublican

Court order?


Cameras in court?

Not really.

Most judges and attorneys interviewed in the four-county region are lukewarm about allowing cameras in the courtroom, citing concerns about how it could negatively impact the prosecution of the case. justice.

Currently, Indiana State Supreme Court policy prohibits anyone from publicly recording, photographing, or providing a video feed of court proceedings — without prior High Court approval.

But that can change.

The Supreme Court has heard comments from judges and attorneys on a proposed amendment to Indiana’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

The amendment includes language that would allow the local court judge to authorize “the broadcasting, televising, recording or photography of court proceedings or the courtroom by members of the news media”.

The amendment stipulated that the following conditions must be met:

• the means of recording will not distract participants or detract from the dignity of the proceedings; and

• dissemination is limited to non-confidential debates.

The comment section of the amendment includes language saying “the judge has the discretion to pause or terminate coverage if he or she deems the interruption or termination appropriate.”

Comments also limit potential broadcast or live streams to accredited media.

The period for accepting comments from judges and lawyers ends on Monday.

Kathryn Dolan, director of public information for the Indiana Supreme Court, pointed out that the rule is only a proposal at this point and that there is no timetable for the Supreme Court to take. a decision whether or not to allow cameras in the courtroom.

Local judges and lawyers aren’t too keen on the idea, with most citing the need to protect the integrity of the proceedings.

“My concern is the risk of the cameras altering the way witnesses testify, knowing that what they say may be broadcast,” said Noble Circuit Court Judge Michael Kramer. “There is also a concern that lawyers and litigants may be more melodramatic and perform in front of the cameras.”

One of the concerns of Noble County Chief Public Defender Jim Abbs is how being televised or photographed would affect witnesses.

“Criminal trials are very serious matters with very serious consequences for a defendant, including loss of liberty,” Abbs said. “It is absolutely essential that the accused receives a fair trial. Many, if not most, of the witnesses in a case have never been on television, and most people who are nervous about having to testify will be even more nervous if they are on television. This could have a direct effect on their testimony. If an answer makes him appear bad for some reason or sympathetic towards someone others dislike, that person may withhold or even change his testimony, which can directly impact a case.

It’s not just witnesses who could be affected, Steuben Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat said.

“I’m concerned that cameras, or still photographs, could distract jurors from what the witness was saying and towards the cameras,” Wheat said.

Justice workers want a fair process. For both of these reasons — and more — Auburn attorney Robert Hardy would like to keep the cameras out of the courtroom.

“I think the cameras are bad,” Hardy said. “Cameras in the courtroom change the dynamic.”

Those interested in following a case can go to court to see justice in action for themselves, Hardy pointed out.

“I think that’s more than enough,” he said.

Hardy also worried that some lawyers would play in front of the cameras. This is a concern shared by Abbs.

“It can also impact attorneys on the case, especially new ones,” Abbs said. “Judging a criminal case when someone’s freedom depends on the outcome is a very heavy responsibility. Like everyone else, lawyers want to look good in their work. Cameras are now an added distraction, especially if the lawyer believes he made a mistake or sees or reads about it that night.

“The lawyer should focus on his portrayal of the defendant, not his appearance or his afterthought perception.”

Abbs also expressed concern that showing all testimony in court proceedings would include images of the victim.

“The accused will be seen, but will the alleged victim be?” Abbs said. “If this is to be in the media, shouldn’t everyone be seen and how is it fair to pick and paste what is seen. An alleged victim could be lying and shouldn’t the public see everything that ? “

LaGrange County Circuit Court Judge William Walz IV said there was positive potential in allowing cameras in the courtroom in certain circumstances.

“Cameras could definitely be a good thing in facilitating a better understanding of what’s going on in court in keeping with the old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,'” Walz said.

Walz added that just because cameras are allowed in the courtroom doesn’t mean they will be.

“If the proposed amendments are passed, the Court will continue to strive to be open and transparent while preserving the dignity of litigants, victims and other participants in civil and criminal proceedings,” Walz said. “All that said, it is unlikely that the LaGrange Circuit Court will routinely permit videocasting of non-confidential proceedings at this time.”

Kramer said the trend is to allow more cameras in courtrooms.

“I’m happy with the current rule prohibiting cameras in the courtroom, but I realize that sooner or later things will change,” Kramer said. “Indiana and the federal courts are about the last courts to have this ban.”

When the change comes, Kramer said he can only hope everyone adapts quickly so the focus can remain on getting a fair hearing for everyone.

Noble 1 Superior Court Judge Steven Clouse is also wary of allowing cameras in the courtroom, but said the proposed rule allows judges to say how — and where — cameras are used.

“If the rule is put in place, I would consider limiting where cameras can be placed in the courtroom and when cameras can be used during a hearing or trial,” Clouse said. “It’s a delicate balance between maintaining the solemnity of the courtroom while allowing the public to have access to the proceedings via cameras and other recording devices.”

Abbs said the focus must be on getting justice done.

“Put simply, the defendant who gets a fair trial must be assured,” he said. “It’s not a sport or reality TV. It’s of supreme importance and should be viewed that way.

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