Indiana courts testing out giving people an inside look in the courtroom

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Court gavel

INDIANAPOLIS — People will be able to get a closer look at what happens behind closed courtroom doors as a new pilot program gives news stations the opportunity to bring their cameras inside.

Ever since 1946, the topic of cameras inside the courtroom has been a topic of debate. The 1946 rule prohibited taking photographs in the courtroom. This expanded to taking video in 1972.

By 1997, Indiana relaxed its rules slightly on cameras in the courtroom, allowing extended coverage of oral arguments before the Indiana Supreme Court. This was still in a pilot program that ended in 2007 with fewer than 10 test cases.

Since then, there have been limited times when cameras were allowed inside the courtroom. Now, the Indiana Supreme Court is once again testing out allowing news cameras inside.

The pilot project will let cameras in at the following trial courts:

  • Allen Superior Court (Criminal) — Judge Frances Gull
  • Delaware Circuit Court 1 — Judge Marianne Vorhees
  • Lake Superior Court, Civil 7 — Judge Bruce Parent
  • Tippecanoe Circuit Court — Judge Sean Persin
  • Vanderburgh Superior Court — Judge Leslie Shively

News media can also live-stream and re-broadcast trials with permission from the judge. The pilot is limited to news media. The judge still has the discretion to allow or disallow cameras inside.

Circuit Judge Marianne Vorhees says this is a positive opportunity for those involved, as well as the public.

“People can always come to court and see themselves what’s happening, but we don’t get a lot of people walking off the street to watch court proceedings. They rely on the media, they rely on things they see on blogs, or people posting things on Facebook, or jury duty, and I would say from my experience with jurors, almost universally, when I go back to the jury room after trial is over, to thank the jury and to excuse them, they will say we are so happy we had this experience, we were able to see how cases really work,  they’re able to see how all the different pieces of the process work together. It really opens their eyes to the whole system seeing the trial from the very beginning to the very end, so I think that would be one benefit for people to see what is really happening in the courtroom and it’s not a 50-minute drama series about a case that only takes 50 minutes, it is a long, involved process sometimes, 2-3 days to try just a regular case. 

Judge Marianne Vorhees, Delaware County Circuit Court 1

The project will last four months before being evaluated.

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