News cameras will be allowed in Madison County criminal courts for the first time under a pilot program approved unanimously by Illinois Supreme Court Justices.

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride congratulated Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis for moving forward with the experimental program.

"Madison County and the surrounding area is known for a vibrant and energetic brand of media," he said in a statement. "Because of its proximity to St. Louis, it will provide the pilot program with input from metropolitan TV and radio stations, who are already accustomed to camera coverage in Missouri courts."

Madison and Bond counties make up the Third Circuit, but extended media coverage will be allowed under the pilot project for the Madison County Criminal Justice Center in Edwardsville.

Callis said the center has sufficient security safeguards to ensure that the project can be managed efficiently.

"Our Criminal Justice Center is a modern, electronically equipped building providing wireless access that will facilitate accessibility by the media," Callis said.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier also commented.

"Success will be measured by whether the news media with their electronic equipment can co-exist with the principles of a fair proceeding," he said. "The initiative of Chief Judge Callis to bring cameras to Madison County will be a helpful test of the project in a different and diverse area of the state."

As the pilot program unfolds in criminal courts in Madison County, Callis said she would explore the feasibility of requesting permission to expand the program to other courthouses in the circuit.

The order approving Madison County criminal courts for the pilot project requires that a judge presiding over a proceeding in which cameras were allowed file a report with Kilbride and Karmeier.
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said Callis would be leading the program.

"I'm looking forward to working on that and being a partner in that," Gibbons said.

The pilot program is already going on in the 14th judicial circuit in the Quad Cities area and in the 21st judicial circuit, including Kankakee County.

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