What will cameras do to Illinois’ courts?

What will cameras do to Illinois’ courts?

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A Cook County Criminal courtroom (Flickr/John W. Iwanski)

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In January, the Illinois Supreme Court approved the pilot project for allowing cameras in the courtroom, with the following rules:

• Jurors and potential jurors may not be photographed.
• Cameras and recording devices will not be allowed in juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody and evidence suppression cases.
• No more than two television cameras and no more than two still photographers will be allowed in a courtroom at one time.
• Victims of violent felonies, police informants and relocated witnesses may request that the judge prohibit them from being photographed.

As drastic as this change might be for Chicagoland media, Illinois is jumping on the bandwagon of a practice that’s allowed in many other states. “Until now, Illinois has been one of only 14 states where cameras in trial courtrooms were either dis-allowed or allowed on such a restrictive basis that they were hardly utilized,” said the Supreme Court in a press release. However, “Illinois has allowed news cameras in the Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court since 1983,” and audio and video of oral reports are posted online.

The pilot program will be put in place in four counties — Rock Island, Mercer, Henry and Whiteside. WBEZ criminal justice reporter Robert Wildeboer and Gene Borgida, a professor of psychology and law at the University of Minnesota, talk with Eight Forty-Eight about the effect this will have on the courts and on the media.