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Article updated: 1/25/2013 7:32 AM

Cameras approved for Lake County courtrooms

By Mike Riopell Lee Filas

Lake County judges will be able to open their courtrooms to cameras for the first time, after the Illinois Supreme Court gave its approval Thursday.

"Our 15 circuit judges have expressed unanimous support for this pilot project," Lake County Chief Judge Fred Foreman said in a statement.

"Our court staff has developed a positive working relationship with various news representatives, and we welcome the collaboration of the news media to develop local protocols and implement a successful program," Foreman said.

Before cameras could be let into a courtroom, several conditions would have to be met, including permission from the judge, who would be able to set guidelines.

Parties in the case can object to camera coverage of a trial. And neither still nor TV cameras can use lights or flashes, or make distracting noises.

Trials would be limited to two still and two video cameras total in the courtroom, and photographers have to file a request to cover a case in advance.

Some cases would be off limits, such as trials involving youth.

"I welcome any attempt to bring more transparency to the judicial process," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said. "I look forward to working with the presiding judge to ensure that the privacy rights of victims and child witnesses are protected."

Cameras already are allowed in courtrooms in DuPage County and some downstate counties. This week marks a year since Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Kilbride first began the historic pilot program.

"By giving the public a closer look at the workings of our court system, I remain confident that citizens will learn more about how their courts work and the critical roles that judges and the courts have in our society," Kilbride said in a statement.

The Supreme Court on Thursday also approved instructions to be read to jurors when media with cameras are present.

"The presence of cameras does not make this case more important than any other," the jury admonishment reads in part. "All trials are equally important to the court and the involved parties. You should not draw any inferences or conclusions from the fact that cameras are present at this particular trial."

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