Televising Moussaoui Federal Trial
Gerhard A. Grove
Televising Moussaoui Federal Trial
This paper will cover the current issue and controversy of televising the Zacarias Moussaoui federal trial. The trial is the first trial of a suspected terrorist involved with the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks. I intend to show that the decision of U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to ban photographers and Court TV from the proceedings was wrong, based on the constitutional rights of the public and previous statutes. This paper will cover various cases involving televised court proceedings and public opinion concerning the media coverage of criminal trials.
Table of Contents
Cameras in the Court5
Cameras Introduced to the Courts8
Justification for Televising Moussaoui9
On September 11, 2001, perhaps the most vicious assault on the United States was committed in the form of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. This attack claimed the lives of more than three thousand souls made up of innocent civilians, firefighters, and police officers. The incident involved the highjacking of two civilian airliners and using them as missiles to bring down the Trade Center. At the time the attacks were taking place in New York, an identical attack was being carried out against the Pentagon. This attack also involved the highjacking of two airliners and using them as missiles. Civilians aboard one airliner intervened, sacrificing their lives and preventing the terrorist from completing their unthinkable attack. The second group of terrorist was successful in their mission and took the lives of over three hundred inside the Pentagon. Muslim extremist belonging to the Al Qaeda terrorist group carried out these attacks. Usama Bin Laden , the most notorious terrorist and the most wanted man in the world, lead this group. Officials quickly realized that the terrorist involved with the highjackings, whom were all killed in the attack, were only the tip of the iceberg. A massive manhunt and investigation ensued to identify and arrest any accomplices and prevent further terrorist attacks. Zacarias Moussaoui was taken into custody on August 17, 2001 after a Minnesota flight school reported it had suspicions about him because of his insistence on learning how to fly large aircraft, including 747s, despite an apparent lack of skills. The FBI held Moussaoui in custody on immigration violation charges and questioned him concerning possible terrorist affiliation. Moussaoui refused to cooperate and was in the process of deportation when the attacks took place. After the attacks, the FBI linked Moussaoui to the terrorist network and conspiracy charges were filed citing the nineteen terrorist who died as co-conspirators. Moussaoui became the first person charged in connection to the terrorist attacks and faced the death penalty. One of the first defense requests in the federal trial of Moussaoui was a request to have his trial televised. Moussaoui's attorney, Edward MacMahon Jr., stated, "By televising the proceeding this would add an added level of protection" (for a fair trial) (Associated Press [AP], 2002, 1). U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema denied this request and further banned all use of photography in the courtroom. She justified her decision based on the possible interference of an orderly, secure proceeding with the presence of cameras in the courtroom. She also declared her decision did not violate the constitutional rights of the public or the media (AP, 1). Cameras in the Court
Cameras started appearing in the courts around the turn of the century. Published still photographs of trials started appearing in the 1920's. The first noted broadcast trial was that of Scopes vs. Tennessee, dubbed the "monkey trial". The...