16th Judicial Circuit committee works toward having cameras in courtroom
By Denise Moran For The Courier-News August 1, 2012 8:30PM
Updated: September 3, 2012 1:24PM
SYCAMORE — Ever since the Courtroom Media Committee of the 16th Judicial Circuit was appointed by Chief Judge Robert Spence in February, the committee has been working to develop the procedures and rules that would allow people outside the courthouse to watch proceedings inside the courtrooms.
Panel members Wednesday discussed some of those issues, from media requests to where cameras should be placed.
In January, the state Supreme Court announced it would consider applications to allow cameras in courtrooms. The public is currently allowed in criminal and civil county courtrooms, but video cameras, still cameras and recording devices are not.
Under the new statewide rules, any objections to filming during the testimony of sex abuse victims, police informants, undercover agents and relocated witnesses would be granted. Cameras would be barred during jury selection as well as during juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody, evidence suppression and trade secret cases. Witnesses can request not to be photographed.
The 16th Judicial Circuit includes Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties. Tim McCann, a Kendall County judge, is the chairman of the committee formed in February. McCann said that committee’s 13 members represent state’s attorneys, public defenders, trial court judges, and private bar.
The committee is divided into three groups.
McCann said the first group is determining the procedures of how to handle requests for media coverage.
The second group is looking into how to notify witnesses about media coverage and how the witnesses can object.
One committee member noted that during her last trial, she had 46 witnesses on subpoena from across the country. She questioned what would be the best way to notify people that they might be photographed or recorded.
The third group is discussing how to deal with the technical aspects of media coverage.
“Some cameras have clicking noises,” McCann said. “Should cameras be mounted on the wall, or should a tripod be used? Should there be sound amplification?”
McCann said that the committee has received advice from Alan May, director of broadcast communications at Northern Illinois University.
“Alan May has worked on this type of program in Wisconsin,” McCann said. “He is also an attorney.”
Other advice offered to the committee has come from Joe Tybor, director of media relations for the Illinois Supreme Court.
A committee member said that Whiteside County in Illinois has applied for participation in the pilot program. A number of 16th Judicial Court committee members are planning to visit Whiteside courtrooms to watch the pilot program in action.
“The work of the committee is a balancing act,” McCann said. “Of the utmost importance is to safeguard the rights of a defendant to a fair trial. Ultimately, the trial court judge will have the final say on whether or not to allow media coverage.”