Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Cameras in Courts

A pilot program is going to allow cameras and audiotaping equipment into some Minnesota district criminal courts in November, following on a ruling that allowed cameras in civil court, according to the Associated Press.

Although the pilot program will not be allowed if a jury is in court, in juvenile courts, or in hearings of trials involving DWI charges, or charges involving drugs, mental health, veterans, domestic violence, or sex crimes, they will be allowed in other types of criminal trials.

In August, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled to allow both cameras and audio recording equipment. Prior to August, everyone involved in a case had to provide consent before media equipment could be brought in. Effectively, that meant that few cases were heard with cameras or audio. The Minnesota Supreme Court indicated that they were attempting to balance concerns about the system’s fairness and transparency of hearings, which journalists have argued for, and concerns about the intrusive or prejudicial effects on plaintiffs and defendants.

Some court veterans do not believe the pilot program should continue. Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall, for example, “worries victims might not report crimes out of fear they’ll appear on TV or in the newspaper.” She indicated to the St. Cloud Times that her office will be checking with victims about their feelings in having their testimony recorded.

As part of the pilot programs, victims who testify as part of the sentencing process or other proceedings after a verdict must give consent for a recording to be made.

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