Cameras should become permanent in the courtroom
Minnesota’s high court will soon face a major decision regarding cameras in the courtrooms across the state.
For more than two years, a pilot project has allowed news organizations to capture video and photographs inside some sentencing proceedings - mostly murder trials and other high profile cases around the state.
The Supreme Court is currently soliciting feedback from the public about cameras in the state’s courtrooms. Any person or organization can provide their views until March 26 regarding the issue. The court will take the public comments into account as it plans to debate the issue on April 25.
An advisory committee made up of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys has already recommended that the pilot project be made permanent. Dodge County Judge Jodi Williamson is a member of the committee. In making its recommendation, the committee found more than half of those surveyed about the presence of cameras were “not at all” intrusive, distracting or disruptive in the proceeding. Cameras have been utilized in 53 cases since November 2015.
One of those cases involved the recent Steele County murder sentencing of Cyrus Trevino. Judge Joseph Bueltel allowed cameras in the courtroom. In his ruling prior to the sentencing, the judge said it is not his role to police the media under the First Amendment. He said he sees value in covering the case because it shows consequences for crimes and that the public knows when the case has ended.
Over the years of covering the courts, I have found victim statements to be extremely powerful in the sentencing of defendants. Cameras and recording devices allow the public to see what heartache victims struggle with in the face of criminal actions.
Contrary to some arguments, microphones and cameras in the courtroom do not destroy the legal process.
I think that the Supreme Court should implement the camera policy for good. The more transparent and accessible the courts are to the media as well as others, the greater the trust will be established in our judicial system. In the end, the public benefits from being able to see our courts operate.
With the courts closely monitoring the situation, as they should, it also holds media coverage to be responsible.
I hope the Supreme Court Justices later this spring will go in hot pursuit of making cameras in the courtroom a permanent fixture of our legal process.