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Article posted: 12/16/2012 4:32 AM

Court cameras can be a private matter

Court cameras can be a private matter

On Dec. 2 DuPage Editor Jim Davis wrote on the subject of cameras in Chicago-area courtrooms. He reported that in a poll of readers, 43 percent opined that cameras should not be allowed in courtrooms, and I must agree with that conclusion.

It appears that newspaper and broadcast media are pushing for in-courtroom photography, but I do not believe such a position is legally sound. The Sixth Amendment to our Constitution states all accused in criminal prosecutions "shall have the the right to a speedy and public trial."

In any criminal prosecution, there are only two parties, the government, represented by its prosecuting attorney, and the accused party. The general public and the press are not parties to a criminal case, and accordingly I do not believe they have any constitutional right to a public trial in that case. It is the accused party who has the right to a public trial, and if that party does not wish to have such a public trial and does not want cameras in the courtroom, the court should order that cameras be kept out.

Of course, newspapers and broadcast media may contend that the First Amendment states that no law shall be made that abridges the freedom of the press, and as part of that, they can demand that cameras be allowed in the courtroom.

But I would interpret the First Amendment differently. I would not interpret freedom of the press to mean that the press can step in and forcefully demand that an otherwise private matter be made available to it for publication.

Accordingly, if the accused in a criminal case, who has the constitutional right to have, or not have, a public trial, does not want cameras in the courtroom, the press should not have the freedom to overturn the accused's right of privacy.

Theodore M. Utchen


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