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updated: 1/24/2013 1:20 PM

McHenry County forum to explore courtroom cameras

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Officials in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in Woodstock will host a meeting Feb. 1 to get opinions on whether to participate in a trial program to allow cameras in courtrooms.

A year ago, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled video cameras could be allowed in courtrooms on a circuit-by-circuit, trial basis.

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Numerous circuits have implemented cameras in courtrooms since then and others, such as Kane County, have proposals in the works for the state's Supreme Court to approve.

The 2 p.m. forum will be held in the third floor of the McHenry County Government Center, 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock, to get opinions from a variety of groups.

"First and foremost, no one knew that this was coming. The (state's Supreme Court) order came out and this is a huge cultural shift in the courtroom," said Dan Wallis, trial court administrator for the 22nd Circuit.

Representatives from the McHenry County state's attorney's office, public defender's office and sheriff's office are expected to attend, along with judges, members of the McHenry Bar Association and court administration. Wallis said officials will give an overview of the issue and have two people on hand to answer questions: Illinois Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor and Tom Jakeway, deputy court administrator for the 17th Judicial Circuit, which now allows cameras.

"This is just an opportunity to get everybody in a room to have a dialogue and see what direction was want to go," Wallis said.

Wallis said that if a consensus is reached to move forward, the most likely next step would be to form a committee to study the issue and draw up a proposal.

McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi said he supports cameras in the courtroom, but will meet with his staff first to see what, if any, statement or opinion his office will deliver Feb. 1.

"As long as we can make sure we protect the rights of the defendant and victims, cameras will be good in the courtroom," Bianchi said. "I think it was good to wait and see. Courts are ready for this."

So far, DuPage County has approved cameras and has used them for a brief appearance in a Naperville murder case. Kane County has drawn up a plan it hopes to send to the Supreme Court by the end of the month. Cameras are not allowed to show jurors and are banned from certain types of cases, such as child custody disputes and sexual assault cases.

Interested parties that cannot make the Feb. 1 forum can email comments to jdwallis@co.mchenry.il.us or call (815) 334-4351.

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