Madison County waiting for permission to allow cameras in the courtroom

Christina Stueve Feb. 22, 2012, 8:12am


Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis has applied to the Illinois Supreme Court for approval to have the Criminal Justice Center included in a pilot project for cameras in the court room.

"I think it would be beneficial to the court system and the public to see how the court system functions," Callis said Wednesday. "Hopefully we will find out soon."

Illinois Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor said the court's application was limited to the criminal justice center, but that Callis reserved an opportunity for expansion.

In a neighboring court, Chief Judge John Baricevic of the 20th Judicial Circuit, which encompasses Monroe, Perry, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties, said over the telephone Wednesday his circuit will observe the pilot program.

"We'll see what issues pop up," he said. "What's good, what's bad and look forward to the results."

"There's competing issues here," he said with reference to the broader issue of media access versus the ability to serve justice.

"There's some practical issues: courtrooms are set up for sound. Those technical issues have to be looked at. Jury issues, witness issues.

"There's a lot of issues that may or may not be important, but we don't know that yet. We're going to take that slowly. Eventually, we will be there, that is have cameras in the courtroom. We will wait and see if any issues develop."

The Illinois Supreme Court announced in January that for the first time news recording in Illinois trial courtrooms would be allowed.

The new policy gives absolute discretion to the trial judge on whether to allow extended media coverage of a proceeding, notwithstanding a request by the news media. Consistent with Article VI, Section 7 (c) of the Illinois Constitution which grants supervisory authority to the chief judge over his circuit, the policy also gives discretion to the chief judge to disallow coverage.

It also provides that the media, through a media coordinator, must request extended media coverage at least 14 days in advance of the time the proceeding is scheduled, although the time frame may be expanded or reduced by the judge. It allows for no more than two video cameras and no more than two still photographers. It encourages media pooling in all regards, and requires media pooling when there are more media requesting extended coverage than the number the judge allows.

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