Press Cameras in Court

There will soon be a break-through in how the media covers local court cases.

The Illinois Supreme Court has created a new pilot program that allows certain judicial centers – including in DuPage County – to permit the use of video and still cameras inside the courtroom. DuPage will be the first jurisdiction in the Chicago area to do so.

“I’ve never been a big proponent of having cameras in the courtroom because I think the dignity and solemnity of the courtroom needs to be protected,” said Robert Berlin, State’s Attorney for DuPage County.

Berlin and public defender Jeffrey York both share concerns that it may influence how cases are conducted.

“I think on an individual case, it’ll effect how an attorney approaches a trial or prepares a client for trial,” said York. “Our concern is our clients that we represent in court…their reaction to something they’ve never seen before or the fear of who else is going to see them on TV. It’s just something else we’re going to have to prepare for.”

To ensure a fair trial for both the plaintiff and defendant, county officials have created a committee to establish ground rules.

So far protocol requires a media organization to submit a request at least 14 days in advance, which the court will review.

It will still be up to each individual judge on a per case basis as to whether cameras will be permitted into the courtroom.

“This isn’t a form of entertainment,” said Circuit Court Judge John Consella. “This is a place to achieve justice and that is first and foremost the goal of each just in every case.”

DuPage County residents have mixed reactions.

“My main concern is that we’d be glorifying those that are on trial, giving them notoriety and fame which is sometimes why people do the things they do. So I’d want to avoid that,” said Naperville resident Susan Bentley.

“I’m all for live cameras in the courtroom,” said Christine Polyak of Bartlett. “It brings first-hand opinion because sometimes the media distorts public opinion of things.

Other details are still being ironed out and need approval before any cameras are allowed inside. Consumer camcorders or camera phones still remain prohibited.

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