Starting May 1, traditional mainstream media organizations can petition courts in the state of Indiana to open up their proceedings to cameras.
”Everybody really needs to know what’s going on in court. There are a lot of myths that people have about what goes on in a courtroom,” said Marion Superior Court Judge Gary Miller. ”90% of what’s going on in a courtroom is not entertaining, dull, maybe even boring.”
Perhaps that may be the biggest shock to citizens accustomed to watching courtroom dramas on TV.
”I think it’s a great idea to have transparency,” said Lafayette Defense Attorney Earl McCoy. “I think it’s good for a number of reasons. I think it gives our community an opportunity to watch some of their elected officials in action. We normally don’t see that much from our judges and that’s an interesting aspect of it and our elected prosecutors.”
Judges will have the discretion, after considering input from defense attorneys and prosecutors, on whether to grant camera access, though the Indiana Supreme Court’s order makes clear that openness and transparency is the presumptive position of the justices.
”First of all, it’s entirely up to the judge. The judge doesn’t have to have the consent of the parties or other attorneys and then the judge will set up certain parameters. For example, where the camera has to be placed in the courtroom because we can’t show video of jurors, minors, or vulnerable witnesses or parties,” said Vanderburgh Superior Court Judge Leslie Shively who participated in a pilot program last year. ”You can’t have cameras that show the counsel table or work product that attorneys are working with. The camera shots have to be very selective. You can show the judge, the attorneys, the witnesses on the stand but you can’t show the jurors, you can’t show the juveniles, and you can’t show, again, exhibits that have not been introduced yet that might be sitting on counsel table.”
Five judges took part in the pilot program.
One of them was Judge Fran Gull of Allen Superior Court in Ft. Wayne.
“She had some experiences and from what I gathered from my colleagues, it was all positive,” said Judge Shively.
Ironically, Judge Gull is presiding over the Delphi double murder trial of a man accused of killing two young girls in Carroll County six years ago.
”I know at the forefront of everybody’s mind is, ‘Is the Delphi case going to be televised? Are we gonna allow cameras in the courtroom on the Delphi case?’” said McCoy, who attended a pre-trial hearing in the Carroll County courthouse last month. “Well, the new rule will allow Judge Gull to make that decision.
”Any judge would be hard-pressed to try something new on such a big case where there’s so many risk factors and so many possibilities of things that could impact the entirety of the trial,” McCoy said. “Of all trials, this is clearly the biggest trial in Indiana right now. One of the biggest trials in the country. And as a result, you do not want to try it twice. You don’t want mistakes that happen that cause us to have a mistrial or certainly not to have an unfair trial for either side.”
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