Illinois Supreme Court press secretary Joseph Tybor led an hour-long workshop Tuesday for reporters wanting to become familiar with Madison County's pilot program for cameras in criminal court proceedings.
Justice Lloyd Karmeier, Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis, as well as Circuit Judges David Hylla and William Mudge attended the event at the court's Criminal Justice Center.
"The Illinois Supreme Court does not want any circuses," Tybor said. "They equate public access with having television cameras in that court room. The Supreme Court's intention was to continue to guarantee fairness of the proceeding."
According to Tybor, media outlets are supposed to select a coordinator to make a formal request of the trial judge to place a camera in the courtroom. Once the request is filed, the parties involved in the case are allowed to object.
No more than two cameras are allowed in the courtroom, but the judge can say no more than one camera is allowed, according to the camera policy.
"The judge will say if you can't work it out, there won't be any cameras," Tybor said.
The trial judge has "all sorts of discretion," he said
Cameras are not allowed in courtrooms during divorce proceedings or proceedings including adoption, family law, or testimony of a victim of a sexual abuse crime. Police undercover work, victims of forcible felonies, juries and jury selection are all excluded from being subject to the camera policy.
Witnesses are permitted to object to having cameras in courtrooms through their attorneys. Since witnesses become nervous before a trial, a judge will require an excuse greater than nervousness to keep the cameras out of the courtroom, Tybor explained.
"We're not going to be prohibitive and will do what is in the best interest of the public," said Callis, who applied to the state Supreme Court to allow cameras in the courtroom in the Third Judicial Circuit, which includes Bond and Madison counties.
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.