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Media in the Courts

NCJ Number
C A Carter
Date Published
135 pages
This monograph reviews the history behind the controversy over cameras in the courtroom, summarizes the major issues involved, and describes the extent to which coverage by electronic and photographic media is allowed in the various States.
Noting that the debate over cameras in the courtroom has raged for the better part of the 20th century, the monograph details the American Bar Association's adoption of Canon 35 which had the effect of banning photography in the courtroom and the later recodification which permitted electronic and photographic equipment in the courtroom for limited purposes. The monograph also describes cases involving the use of courtroom photography, such as the murder trial of Harry Washburn in Waco, Tex., State supreme court rulings on camera use in Lyles v. State (Oklahoma), and Colorado Supreme Court hearings concerning Canon 35. A review is given of the evolution of the constitutional issues before the U.S. Supreme Court in Estes v. Texas which involved the constitutionality of televising a criminal trial over the defendant's objection. In addition, the monograph discusses three possible threats to a defendant's right to a fair trial (physical distractions, adverse psychological impact upon trial participants, and prejudicial publicity) and relates these threats to the four conflicting constitutional rights: those of fair trial, privacy, freedom of speech and of the press. The monograph also analyzes the assertion that camera coverage of court proceedings should be allowed, based on the right to a public trial. Finally, evidence is given of changing attitudes about electronic and photographic media coverage. Such evidence includes the Conference of Chief Justices' adoption of an amendment to Canon 3 A(7) of the Code of Judicial Conduct to allow limited electronic and photographic media coverage of judicial proceedings and the fact that 27 State courts now permit electronic and photographic coverage of certain judicial proceedings. A total of 236 notes are given. Part II describes the history and nature of guidelines in those States allowing electronic and photographic media coverage on both a permanent and an experimental basis. The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Chandler v. Florida on January 26, 1981, is appended. In a unanimous opinion, the Court ruled that television coverage of a criminal proceeding does not automatically violate a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial despite a defendant's objection to the coverage. Reports of recent (December 1980 - January 1981) State actions in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and New York are also appended.