Cameras in the Courtroom

January 14, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 2
Should TV be allowed in federal courts?
By Kenneth Jost

Introduction

Edgar Ray Killen (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)
Print and TV cameramen photograph former Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen during his 2005 trial in Mississippi for the murders of three civil rights workers in 1964. Mississippi began permitting audio and video coverage of trials in 2003. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

Television cameras have been allowed in state courts for more than 30 years, but the Supreme Court and federal judiciary have been staunchly opposed to video coverage of trials or appeals. Media groups and others say that video coverage of courts helps educate the public about the legal process while strengthening public accountability over the judicial system. Some, but not all, criminal defense lawyers worry that televised trials can jeopardize defendants' rights. The most significant resistance to cameras in the courtroom comes from judges and some private lawyers who discount the claimed benefits and warn that cameras could invite grandstanding by lawyers or risk intimidating jurors and witnesses. The Supreme Court recently made audio tapes of arguments more readily available, but the justices show no sign of welcoming cameras into their hallowed courtroom in the foreseeable future.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Challenges of the Courts
Jan. 14, 2011  Cameras in the Courtroom
Oct. 22, 1993  Science in the Courtroom
May 27, 1988  Protecting Rights in State Courts
Oct. 07, 1983  Court Backlog
Jan. 16, 1981  Television in the Courtroom
Jun. 03, 1970  Reform of the Courts
Nov. 16, 1960  Congestion in the Courts
Mar. 07, 1956  Cameras in Court
Jul. 18, 1939  Reform of Lower Federal Courts
Feb. 04, 1936  Restriction of Powers of Federal Courts
Apr. 14, 1931  Reform of Magistrates' Courts
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Federal Courts