Illinois Supreme Court to allow cameras in courtrooms

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (KFVS) - For years Illinois has been just one of 14 states that don't allow cameras during criminal trials. But that will soon change. The Illinois Supreme Court announced a new experimental policy allowing cameras in trial court.

Illinois News Broadcasters Association President Jennifer Fuller says for years they have advocated for the use of cameras and tape recorders during criminal trials.

"I was shocked when I saw it but so excited," Fuller said.

Fuller is taking about the order from the Illinois Supreme Court that now allows cameras likes ours, inside criminal trials. Which Fuller says will help journalists better share what's gone on inside the courtroom.

"It's not like we've not been covering the courts, we've been covering them," Fuller said. "We just have had to leave our tools outside the courtroom. Now we can tell those stories in a way viewers and listeners are use too, to hear the people say things for themselves, to see how they said it."

Under the new policy, circuit courts must apply for approval from the Supreme Court to take part in the experimental program. First Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Mark Clarke says they didn't receive any notice of the court's ruling but was not surprised. Clarke says he plans to first speak with those who use the courtrooms on a daily basis.

"We're going to get their imputes, their concerns, their suggestions and we're going to try to take all that into account," Clark said. "But I believe it would be fair to say that we are going to have some form of this program at some point in this circuit and I believe every circuit."

Clarke adds he doesn't expect the cameras or news recording devices to disrupt court proceeding.  Rather, he sees the ruling as a good thing for the court system.

"Some folks out there get how the judicial system works from Judge Judy," Clarke said. "So to the extent they get a more accurate picture, I think that helps us all."

Clark says he has started to the process that will allow cameras inside courtrooms.

The policy allows for witnesses or parties to object to extended media coverage. Sexual abuse victims must consent to video coverage of testimony.  The policy prohibits media coverage in juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody, and evidence suppression and trade secret cases. Extended media coverage of the jury is also prohibited.

Heartland News spoke with some southern Illinois prosecutors who they support the policy, as it allows people to better see what goes on in the courtroom.

Illinois has been one of only 14 states where cameras in trial courtrooms were not allowed.

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