Criminal Trials: Should they be Televised or not? Faith R. Warner Rasmussen College This research is being submitted on December 7, 2010, for Rose Pogatshnik’s CCJ 1000 course at Rasmussen College by Faith R. Warner. Cochran, B. President, & radio-television news directors association & f. (n. d). (2005, November 9). Cameras in the courtroom. pp 1-5. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from Points of view reference center database. “Ms. Bergman is President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”)”. She is representing the Committee in this article.
In criminal cases, Ms. Bergman believes the price of televised court actions “must be weighed against the accused constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial” (Bergman, 2005). In some cases, televised trials may help restore the reputation of a criminal defendant when charges are dismissed or they receive a not guilty verdict. On the other hand, “One primary concern regarding cameras in the courtroom is that they will affect the participants’ behavior in ways that would undermine the fair administration of justice” (Bergman, 2005).
In addition, “If jurors are filmed and their verdict publicized, concern about how their verdict will be accepted by the mass television audience may invade the deliberations process” (Bergman, 2005). Once more, “Televised proceedings can adversely affect witness behavior in many ways” (Bergman, 2005). Witnesses may not want to testify if they now their testimony will be publicized. I agree with Ms. Bergman in the fact that televised court proceedings must be viewed carefully. However, I do not agree that a televised criminal case would help restore a defendant if acquitted.
The public has already formed their opinions of a defendant before the trial ever started. I do agree that televising criminal trials will put an effect on how people act or react in the courtroom. I also agree that televising a criminal trial would very much make a witness reluctant to testify. This testimony supports my thesis that there will be relentless issues about cameras in the courtroom. Cochran, B. President, & radio-television news directors association & f. (n. d). (2005, November 9). Cameras in the courtroom. pp 1-5.
Retrieved October 19, 2010, from Points of view reference center database. Barbra Cochran is the President of the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). She addresses proposed legislation to allow media coverage of federal court proceedings (Cochoran, 2005). “Since the O. J. Simpson murder trial, many people have been quick to point the finger at the camera as the cause of ‘sensationalism’ and public distaste for our legal process” (Cochoran, 2005). Cochoran goes on about televising court trials does not affect the ability of performance in the courtroom. Jurors, prosecutors, lawyers, witnesses and judges on both state and federal levels have overwhelmingly reported for the past decade or so that the unobtrusive cameras has not had an adverse impact on trials or appellate proceedings” (Cochoran, 2005). Inclusive studies have shown television coverage has been educational to show the public how the justice system works. “Public scrutiny will help reform our legal system, dispel myth and rumors that spread as a result of ignorance, and strengthen the ties between citizens and their government” (Cochoran, 2005).
This article supports my thesis because it talks about both sides of cameras in the courtrooms. I do believe the public needs to become more involved in criminal proceedings, however, by watching it on TV they will only get bits and pieces, unless they are a couch potato. I also agree that televised court trials do not affect performance in court, if the lawyers and judge can keep a grip on things. Economist (1998-1999, December/January). Cameras in court. In Television on trial. 349. (8099), p23-25. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from MasterFILE Premier database. 1382151) The camera defenders will say all trials should be publicized as legislature courts are publicized. However, “Courts are public in a different way” (Economist, 1998). The Prosecuting Attorney states, “The judge and jury should decide the case on facts, not on the popularity or unpopularity of the victims or the accused” (Economist, 1998). Although, 47 states in the US permit cameras, only 26 states have them on a regular basis. If trials are televised some witnesses might not want to testify. In addition, “Several of the O. J.
Simpson jurors had to be dismissed because they signed book contracts during the trial” (Economist, 1998). When a trial is publicized, many political issues can arise, therefore, misleading the determination of guilt or innocents. However, the Defense Attorney states, “Can television cameras really be blamed” (Economist, 1998). There will always be popular trials that catch the media and public’s attention, due to their horrific details or important public issues. Considering the O. J. Simpson trial, this case would have been publicized with or without cameras, being he was a star athlete (Economist, 1998).
Therefore, we cannot blame the media for this travesty. The criminal justice system had its problems long before cameras were around. The problem is the lawyers who are manipulated by the public opinions being stated outside the courtroom doors (Economist, 1998). This article supports my thesis, in a way that I can now see journalists should not be blamed for what happens in a court case. However, they should know what to and what not to put out there for America to see and hear. Lawyers and judges need to use a little more discretion when dealing with the media.
Hernandez, D. (1996). Courtroom cameras debated. Pp. 1-6. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from EBSCO MegaFILE database. Lawyers are saying, “Since some criminal trials involve high society people”, cameras should not be allowed in those trials; due to special circumstances (Hernandez, 1996). However, they do point out the public can learn about the justice system, and how it works, with cameras being in the courtroom. In addition, lawyers are saying that, “Judges need to take more control in their courtrooms, and not let cases turn into circus like atmospheres” (Hernandez, 1996).
They also state that people get more involved in cases if they can watch rather than read about it. However, some say the public sometimes forms their opinion before the initial trial starts, therefore, stating that cameras should maybe not be in the courtroom during preliminary trials. Some say they have watched shows on Court TV and come away with a positive view of the court system. The judicial process is not supposed be pretty, the point is … it belongs to us not the lawyers, and we should be able to see if it is working or not (Hernandez, 1996).
This article supports my thesis in a way that points out cameras should not be allowed in preliminary hearings. I agree that judges need to keep control of their courtrooms, however, lawyers to keep their opinions away from the media as their own discretion. This article has very good views on how cameras need to be put into courtrooms at the judge’s discretion. Noah, T. (1997, April 21). Why is TV in a jury room? In U. S. News & World Report, 122. (15), p51. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from MasterFILE Premier database. (9704164142)
Say hello to a new ethical dilemma for journalists and society, with cameras being allowed into the jury room in four Arizona criminal trials. However, the television crews did have authorization from all of the parties and the American Bar Association, and this was only a onetime thing (Noah, 1997). By letting cameras into the jury deliberation rooms, this allowed Americans to see for themselves how the process works. One juror on the William Kennedy Smith case, found leaked information in a newspaper about a questionnaire she had to fill out ordered by the courts (Noah, 1997).
There is no evidence that media publicity affected any verdicts because jurors still preserve secrecy. If cameras are effectively allowed into deliberation rooms, this could and will allow disruption of a juror verdict, due to the facts of, “Some jurors might feel unintelligent, asking questions about a case on national television” (Noah, 1997). This article supports my thesis that it brings up cameras in jury room also. I do not agree with cameras in jury deliberation rooms, because the public and the defendant do not need to know how the jury reached their conclusion.
This in turn could be reached as a tainted verdict. Quindlen, A. (2002, January 21). Lights, camera, justice for all. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from MAS Ultra – School Edition database. (5861317) If the media did not televise criminal trials, they would probably be caught up in talk shows, in turn only hearing one side of the case. People never had a problem with televised court trials, until the O. J. Simpson case (Quindlen, 2002). Some lawyers are quick to play out a role in any case whether there is a camera or not. Only a weak judge can turn a trial into a media circus by losing control of the proceedings, as Lance Ito did”, in the Simpson trial (Quindlen, 2002). Some say why watch the court proceedings at all, if you are so strongly against cameras in the courtroom. “’We are not part of a national entertainment network’, Justice Anthony Kennedy once said, ‘obviously sure that no average American could want to watch Supreme Court proceedings for intellectual edification” (Quindlen, 2002). Therefore, why would one be so eager to watch a criminal trial?
Most people say it is because they can voice their opinion on criminal trials, whereas, most do not understand what goes on in Supreme Court proceedings. This article supports my thesis, in a way that details on the public’s, judges and lawyers state their opinions about cameras in courtrooms. I can agree when it comes to Supreme Court proceedings that I do not understand what they are. I think whoever wants cameras in criminal courtrooms just needs more to gossip about, because that is all I ever hear when a major case has been televised. Ross, S. D. (2004).
Open courts & Press privileges and limits. In Deciding communication law: Key cases in context (chap 18 & 19). Retrieved November 1, 2010, from NetLibrary eBooks database. (eBook ISBN: 9781410610188) Judges must be adamant when it comes to trials being open to the media, in assuring that it will not impinge on the due process to a fair trial. The First and Sixth Amendments, state the public has a right to know what goes on in a trial. However, the court has never asserted a broad constitutional right of access to all judicial proceedings (Ross, 2004).
The court states that an open trial cannot automatically assume prejudice from a jury or the right to a fair trial. “Although many court proceedings are presumptively open, the Supreme Court ruled in 1981 that the public right of access does not include a requirement that cameras be permitted in courtrooms” (Ross, 2004). “In contrast, journalists emphasized the First Amendment’s edict that ‘Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom… of the press’” (Ross, 2004). Although, research is uncertain concerning the influence of media coverage on juror attitudes or trial outcomes, the Supreme Court in Sheppard v.
Maxwell acknowledged the prejudicial brunt of publicity and told judges, “they must assure that media coverage does not prevent fair trials” (Ross, 2004). This research defends my thesis in there will always be issues on media coverage. This research concludes that the constitution states the public has a right to know what goes at trials, however I think it should only be included to the effects on the public. This article talks about the effects of the defendant, but what about the victim(s), what if they do not what their life/lives on camera. Stern, S. (2002, January 9).
Televised trials: Terror compounds debate. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from MAS Ultra – School Edition database. (5827892) In a Virginia courtroom, federal district judge Leonie Brinkema heard arguments about letting Court TV to broadcast Zacarias Moussaoui’s court trial. “Opponents of the Court TV petition worry that a televised trial would give Moussaoui a high-profile soapbox to promote an anti-American world view” (Stern, 2002). Even if there are no cameras, Moussaoui has already shown non-cooperation in court. Moussaoui’s lawyers favor cameras at his trial, however, they did object to Court TV’s broadcasting. Moussaoui asserted in a court filing that the presence of cameras could ‘add an additional layer of protection’ to ensure the trial is conducted fairly” (Stern, 2002). “An audience far beyond the Virginia courtroom will be able to watch the trial, even if it is not broadcast. Congress is authorizing closed circuit TV viewing for the families of Sept. 11 victims” (Stern, 2002). The Justice Department will probably have to set up numerous viewing stations for thousands of victim’s families during the trial. By letting cameras into this particular trial, we could scare away witnesses and jurors could become afraid of terroristic threats.
However, at the same time, we as Americans should be allowed to see what goes on in the courtroom, of the most horrific terrorist American’s have ever seen (Stern, 2002). This article supports my thesis on basis of courts say no, but the public says yes to cameras in a criminal trial. The Daily Record Editorial Advisory, B. , (n. d). (2008, September 22). Commentary: Cameras in the criminal courtroom. Retrieved October 24, 2010, from EBSCO MegaFILE database. “Citizens should be able to see what goes on at a trial, and in-person attendance is difficult of not impossible” (Baltimore, MD Daily Record, n. ). However, the Committee to Extend Media coverage of Criminal Trials reports Maryland’s statutory ban on cameras in the criminal courtroom should remain in effect. “Maryland lags behind majority” and does not allow cameras into their court trials. “In 1947, Justice William O. Douglas wrote, ‘a trial is a public event. What transpires in the courtroom is public property’” (Baltimore, MD Daily Record, n. d). Before cameras were invented and the public was a lot smaller, all trials were publicized, therefore, in the 21st century it would make sense to televise court proceedings.
Maryland journalists would be very careful as to what they televise, like sexual offense cases. The First Amendment states, the right of free press and printed news is generally less important, so why not make it plausible for cameras to be in courtrooms. Moreover, by allowing cameras in the courtrooms not only benefits the participants on the trial, but also the public. I do not agree with the state of Maryland by wanting to allow cameras into their courtrooms. I understand the right to a fair trial by the public; however, we should not interrupt due process, by allowing cameras to disrupt the lives included.
This article defies my thesis in the fact that it is for cameras in courtrooms. Today’s Christian Woman. (1997, September/October). Do you think court trials should be televised? (19 (5), 17). Retrieved November 2, 2010, from MasterFILE Premier database. (9709225214) Christian women are asked if trials should be televised or not. “If trials were televised, criminals would still be ahead by being able to sell movie rights or write a book about the trial. And innocent people would have a difficult time returning to a normal life”, stated Jeanne—Marie Haunter a roduce Manager (Today’s Christian Women, 1997). Although not all people are Christian’s in today’s’ society, many of these women say cameras should not be allowed in courtroom’s. Ask yourself the question, would you want your life to be publicized and scrutinized? Understanding that once a criminal has committed a crime his/her person life becomes public knowledge is one thing; however, does it make it right for the victim’s life to become the same? “I feel it is important to have permission from all parties involved before televising a court trial.
Failure to do so could lead to the exploitation and public scrutiny of innocent people”, stated Debi Hull a Homemaker and law student (Today’s Christian Women, 1997). I understand that victim’s can have a hard time leading a normal life if the criminal goes out and makes a movie or book of the criminal acts, however, after the criminal has served their time, they are free to as they please. I thought when a person was going to make a movie or write a book about actual events, they had to have permission from all parties involved. This article defends my thesis based on it covers the public’s views about cameras in the courtroom.