Editorial: How would camera disrupt decorum of DuPage courtroom?

  • Upper from left, James Cooksey, Kyler Kregel, and Ben Pettway and lower from left, Noah Spielman and Samuel TeBos are Wheaton College football players accused of hazing a teammate last year.

    Upper from left, James Cooksey, Kyler Kregel, and Ben Pettway and lower from left, Noah Spielman and Samuel TeBos are Wheaton College football players accused of hazing a teammate last year.

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted10/19/2017 9:49 PM

It has been five years since DuPage County first allowed photographers into their courtrooms.

And even though there have been no problems to speak of, that hasn't stopped the naysayers from imagining that some could always pop up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Wednesday, Judge Brian Telander rejected a request to permit one still photographer and one videographer into Monday's arraignment of four suspended Wheaton College football players accused of hazing a freshman team member. They would have acted as "pool" journalists for other media outside the courtroom, and members of the public interested in the case would have been able to follow the case as it proceeded.

Telander said he denied the request "to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice" and to "maintain decorum and prevent distractions."

He did not elaborate, and so we are left to wonder how a single videographer with a simple, unmoving setup and a photographer taking the occasional discreet picture, would destroy the courtroom's decorum and moreover, hinder justice?

The case in question has generated a lot of public interest. Five Wheaton College football players are accused of abducting a teammate from his dorm room in March 2016, tying him with duct tape, threatening him with sexual violations and ultimately leaving him in a baseball field. The college suspended the players last month after charges were announced, and the student now attends another school.

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We're not talking about a scrum of reporters in the back of the courtroom, jostling for position and shouting questions as a witness on the stand shrinks in fear. Instead, we're talking about giving Americans a livestream education, showcasing the civic process that is nothing less than the cornerstone of our democracy.

We have argued from the beginning that transparency, and the public right to know how their institutions work, trumps other considerations -- as long as the presence of cameras does not harm the cause of justice.

There is hard data now, and no evidence that cameras in the courtroom create a hardship for trial participants. Fears that trial attorneys would "play to the cameras" or would focus on their TV audience instead of their courtroom audience have not materialized anywhere, including DuPage County.

We await the day when fears will have abated and most trials will be available to the public. We hope that day is coming soon.

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