Cameras in the Courtroom
By: Justin Taylor
MCJ 6257-08C-2, Criminal Courts and Professional Ethics
Cameras in the Courtroom
In the electronic world that we live in, every aspect of life can be broadcast across the country in seconds. This aspect is even more realistic when cameras are front and center in American courtrooms. Each morning and afternoon we turn on the television, reality television takes over and civil lawsuits or divorces are being broadcast on shows such as the Judge Judy Show, Judge Brown Show, Judge Greg Mathis Show or Divorce Court. Many people, young and old, are exposed to these reality shows believing what they see is the “real” criminal justice system at work. According to Erika Lane, these syndicated court television shows provide significant entertainment to the public, but often mislead them into how the criminal justice system really works (Lane, 2007). In this paper, I will be discussing several arguments for and against the use of videotapes and cameras in the courtroom and the jury deliberation room. The arguments for and against cameras in the courtroom have been made by the media who believes they have the right to the freedom of speech and the courtroom working group who believes the accused have the right to privacy (Geis & Talley, 1957).
The methods I will use to address the arguments will be to perform a review of related research material from professional journals, online news sites, and professional internet sites about cameras being placed in the courtroom and jury deliberation room.
The arguments made from those who believe cameras should be allowed in the courtroom is that the First Amendment allows for freedom of speech and freedom of the press and the public would be educated on the workings of the criminal justice system. The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (Westlaw).
Justice Felix Frankfurter recognized that there should be some type of relationship between the media and court personnel because of the constitution. Justice Frankfurter stated that “Freedom of the press, properly conceive, is basic to our constitutional system. Safeguards for the fair administration of criminal justice are enshrined in our Bill of Rights” (Nakis, 2006). This opinion made by Justice Frankfurter was in 1950 and still today this debate has not been fully resolved. The media believes that the First Amendment gives them the right to report trials in any fashion they see fit. The media believes that the lawyers and judges have intentional violated the First Amendment by withholding trial related information on purpose. Geis and Talley note the newspapers and media have complained that withholding any information pertaining to a trial “undermines the constitutional right of the freedom of the press” (Geis & Talley, 1957). But many opponents believe that the newspapers are in the profit of business and not in the arena of accurately reporting the news. But the media argues that they can not accurately report the news if they are not receiving information from the most important people in the courtroom, the lawyers and judges (Matsch, 1999). Nakis noted that not receiving this information and being suppressed to report information violates that First Amendment (Nakis, 2006). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Nebraska Press Association v. Stewart, that a gag order that prevented the press from reporting obtained records was a violation of the First Amendment (Westlaw). This ruling was important because, according to Nakis, it showed the courts that they could not prohibit the media from reporting legally obtained records (Nakis,...
References: Geis, G & Talley, R. (1957). Cameras in the Courtroom. The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science. 47(5). Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1139022.
Lane, E. (Summer 2007). Reality of Courtroom Television Shows: Should the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Apply to T.V. Judges? Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, 20(3). Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3975/is_200707/ai_n19511833.
Lassiter, C (1996). TV or not TV-that is the question. Journal of Criminal Law &
Criminology, 86(3), from Academic Search Elite Database.
Matsch, R. (1999). Television in the Courtroom: Mightier than the Pen? Michigan Law Review. 97(6). Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1290241.
Nakis, M. (2006). Cameras in the Courtroom: Real Cases, Real Judges, Real Justice?
Podlas, K. (2001). Please adjust you signal: how television’s syndicated courtrooms bias our juror citizenry.
Geis, G, & Talley, R. (1957). Cameras in the Courtroom. The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science, 47(5). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1139022
Westlaw. Retrieved from www.westlaw.com
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