Why No Recording in Court
They argue that such broadcasts educate the public and allow them to see how justice is (or perhaps not) being exercised. They say that under the watchful eye of thousands of spectators, judges, lawyers and jurors are more likely to pay attention to the facts of a case and show their best side to ensure fairer trials. State court judges have traditionally been more open to arguments from broadcasters than federal judges. Daniel M. Kolkey argues that televised trials can distort the truth-seeking process of a criminal trial and deter witnesses from cooperating; whereas televised coverage of hearings infringes on the privacy of victims, witnesses and defendants; whether or not to broadcast court hearings on television does not lend itself to a case-by-case decision; and that television broadcasts of judicial proceedings can make them a form of entertainment that can undermine the dignity and respect of our judicial institutions. Bryan Goebel argues that there is no evidence to support the claim that cameras have a greater psychological effect than a courtroom crowded with strangers, or that cameras undermine truthful statements.  It was pointed out that since no experiments can be replicated under laboratory conditions, scientific experiments are not possible and therefore we do not have empirical data on the effect of television on a criminal trial.   In May, a Baltimore-based journalist sued city court officials “for an abrupt policy change restricting public access to audio of court proceedings — a violation of a Maryland rule requiring courts to make recordings available to the public,” Alice Speri wrote for The Intercept. Justine Barron, a freelance journalist who has investigated a number of high-profile cases involving the Baltimore Police Department, was denied access to court records last week, just two days after a podcast about the controversial prosecution of Keith Davis Jr.
had aired its first episode, including legally acquired forensic audio clips. Maryland law requires courts to provide the public with access to audio recordings of court proceedings, but prohibits the release of such recordings. Journalists say this provision violates the First Amendment. A new debate over cameras in the courtroom followed Court TV`s coverage of the trial of former football star O.J. Simpson — for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and one of her acquaintances, Ron Goldman in 1994 — and the controversy surrounding the jury`s verdict. Based on the ban, Sellers writes via email: “Portable electronic devices are typically equipped with a camera and microphone, and once such a device is allowed in a courtroom (virtual or otherwise), it is very difficult to control how it is used. Any live broadcast from the courtroom can affect witnesses and jurors. But also a story that is published on the Internet. We asked Sellers how often the justice system had such problems with journalists; He replied that the capabilities of mobile phones impose restrictions on their use in courtrooms. During a court appearance with Gavin Stone, the paper`s editor-in-chief, Sasser admitted he took the recordings — and noted that he received the green light from Stone himself. Stone said he thinks court decisions only ban cell phones, not recording devices. In fact, the technology violates an August 2019 administrative order banning “phones, cameras and other electronic devices” from the courthouse.
The problems with rules prohibiting audio recording are far from theoretical. After high-profile hearings, says a reporter covering New York courts, correspondents from the major media outlets—the New York tabloid, the New York Times and various magazines—gather to compile quotes, a form of collaborative action motivated by politics. Since 2014, Ukraine has allowed video recordings of hearings without the express permission of the judge within the limits set by law.  In 2015, the Public Hearing Project was launched to videotape court hearings in civil, commercial and administrative matters.  The public hearing project has registered more than 7,000 court cases at various levels. Videos are stored in the public domain, indexed and published. The details are important because of the result: Futrell sentenced Stone to five days in jail, although he was released after one day. (According to court documents, Stone received a letter of reprimand in January 2020 for photographing a court case.) The issue will be discussed again at a hearing in the coming weeks. The new policy states: “A judge may authorize broadcasting, televising, recording or photographing in the courtroom and adjacent areas during the inquest, naturalization or other ceremonial proceedings. A judge may permit such activities in the courtroom or adjacent areas during another trial or during breaks between such proceedings only: (a) for the presentation of evidence; (b) for the continuation of the procedural protocol; (c) for security reasons; (d) for other purposes of the administration of justice; or (e) in accordance with pilot programs approved by the United States Judicial Conference.
While the decision did not require states to allow cameras in their courtrooms, it helped allay concerns expressed in Estes about the impact of cameras on trial fairness.