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Cameras in courtrooms have been a controversial issue since time immemorial. The judges feel that the presence of the cameras in the courtrooms hinders a fair trial while the media and the concerned parties feel that they should have a right to cover the court proceedings. Cameras have actually been put into test in federal trials, but still judges felt that they were such a distraction and their use was not required. I believe that in some cases, it is comprehensible for wanting to capture the proceedings, but for most cases, I think that cameras do not have a place in the courtroom. Many times cameras in courtrooms offer added complications, hinder fair trials, and pointless distractions and this should never be allowed in the courtroom.
The court should be able to function properly without the fear that broadcasting the proceeding live daily disrupts the result of the proceedings. However, cameras can only be present in the courtroom with the approval of all the concerned parties, that is, a representative of state or local government, a representative of a state agency and a person suing, or sued, in his/her official state capacity (White, 2005). Once consent is granted, it may not be removed, any party, sometimes, may opt to terminate or limit exposure. If the cameras are allowed in the courtrooms, then it is usually stipulated that no more than one camera, each operated by one individual, are permitted from each media house. This is to help minimize the hindrance caused by the cameras.
All requests for camera coverage must be submitted in writing to the clerk of the court where the trial will be held. This is to allow time for all the parties to agree or disagree on the media coverage. Once the cameras are allowed in the courtrooms, there are also rules set to keep cameras from disturbing courtroom proceedings. These rules also may act to benefit the concerned parties in the courtroom. I believe that the best option to cover the court proceeding is to tape it and not show it until the proceeding is over. This will not let the trial participants worry about their actions disrupting the outcome of the trial. Live coverage of the court proceeding will significantly affect the outcome of the trial. The courts should be able to carry on with its business without the concern that broadcasting the proceeding will influence the results of the trial. Even with the technological advancement, the media equipments, like the cameras, still distracts the court proceedings (Cohn, & Dow, 2002).
With all the equipments setup preparation in the courtroom, this will sometimes delay the court proceedings. The equipment wiring may hinder movement in the courtrooms; even the movement of the camera operators also hinders the movement of other participants in the court. Huge, bulky cameras, long cords of wires, and blinding lights are not only a hindrance in the courts, but they occupy a lot of space. In major cases where it attract various media houses, will lead jamming in the courtroom. Therefore, for the judge to allow a few, selected people will only result in a controversy. I believe the only way to avoid any controversial issue ban them all in the courtroom.
A research was carried out on whether the cameras should be allowed or not in the courtroom, and a pilot test put in place. After the test, it was found that there were many controversial issues concerning the cameras in the courtroom. Cameras could potentially frighten witnesses and jurors and consequently, to conserve justice, cameras should have no place in the trials courts. This will serve to protect the interest of the witnesses, the defendant, and the complainant. The witnesses would be freer to testify without the fear that the coverage would used against them in the future. In the part of the defendant and the complainant, they have the worry that the camera coverage may influence the outcomes of the trial (Hiber, 2008).
When, in 1987, the lawmakers first concluded to permit the use of cameras in the courtrooms on experimental grounds, it was with the anticipation that it will positively influence the behavior of judges. The mass of the report had to admit the overpowering evidence that cameras influence judges. This entails the revelation that of 37 percent of respondents to the judicial study that camera guided judges to deliver rulings they in other situations might not issue. It is understood that judges may take sides in the presence of the camera, and it is inappropriate to presume that judges will faithfully deliver their responsibilities if the cameras are permitted in courtrooms. The report goes on to reveal that more than 37 percent of judges confess to have been a positive one, as they are most likely their finest conduct when they recognize they are being on camera (New York (State) & Committee on Audio-Visual Coverage of Court Proceedings, 1997).
The record shows that the existence of the camera is not neutral, that has an influence not only on judges, but also on witnesses as well as the defendant. In addition, because judges are imperfect human beings like the rest of us, it is impractical to take for granted that the influence of the presence of cameras in courtrooms is always a positive one. This is particularly regarding the current tendency to hold members of the courts to public scrutiny concerning how tough they are on felony. As admitted by the 45 percent of the respondents to the legal study who articulated the worry that cameras influence judicial independence, this worry is a real one. There have been technological advancements in the media industry, especially camera, which have produced courtroom technology. However, there is a downside to the technology, which parties can influence or alter camera evidence in their favor.
In the view that every judge should support the constitution, which grants citizens the right to a just and neutral trial, cameras in court could serious jeopardize that right because their influence on parties, witnesses and jurors. The cameras also do more than just report the proceedings in the court. They are also subject to manipulations, which will eventually affect the public scrutiny of the court proceedings. Malicious people to disrupt the court proceedings can manipulate camera footage, and they can use it against some witnesses. Granting a right to a citizen is simply allowing him or her to have some level of privacy. Some witnesses or the accused may not be comfortable with the presence of the camera in the courtroom
In sensitive cases where complainants were sexually abused, the cameras in courtrooms may only serve to sensationalize the proceedings. Subjecting the victim to the camera not only victimize the complainant more, but may also affect the proceedings. It is also not morally right to publicize juvenile cases, evidence by victims of sex crimes, family relations, for instance divorces, adoption proceedings, child custody settlements, and trade secrets. These will not concern the public, and the use of cameras will not serve any purpose.
Witnesses are highly affected by the presence of the cameras in the courtroom. This is in view of the fact that every human being may let his wander away under the glare of the camera and the public scrutiny. This will eventually affect the outcomes of the trials, unlike in the normal environment where there are no cameras. This is because when witnesses appear to be scared or unsure the judges tend not to believe their evidence. The witnesses are got between whether to pay attention to the information he is giving or when such information is believed to be imperfect, deceptive, or unreliable (Scheb, 2008).
It is also normally for someone to vigorously suppress a thought or reminiscence when attention to it is immense and emotionally stimulating. Perhaps the hardest aspect of controlling the influence of pretrial publicity is that ideas and thoughts created as an outcome of pretrial publicity are so incorporated into an individual’s thinking processes that they cannot be tidily excised, as the law would favor. Every individual is able to make his or her own unique relation between information, insight, and judgments. Therefore, the presence of cameras and publicity may enormously affect his or her judgment, and eventually the trial itself.
One of the suppositions of the judicial system is that members of the judicial will decide the case depending on the evidence and presentation of counsel. With respect to handling the effects or pretrial exposure, we assume that reality finders will make a decision about the case based exclusively on the evidence and presentation of counsel, and that they will put aside any bias based upon pretrial exposure. All these are affected by the presence of the cameras in the courtrooms.
It is also realized that the presence of cameras in courtrooms may deny an accused of effective counsel. The interruptions, intrusions into privacy of attorney-client relationships and the temptation presented by camera to play to the unrestricted office might frequently have a straight effect not only upon legal representatives, but also upon the judge, the adjudicators, and the witnesses.
There are also situations that require complete secrecy, and the presence of the cameras in the proceeding should never be allowed. These could be business cases where status and privacy wellbeing are subjects of possible damage through offensive media discovery. The camera coverage may be used by rival business enterprises at the disadvantage of others. Whether a sufficient exposure can be made to halt disclosure will rely upon the exact facts of the case.
For instance, while the exposure of documents in cases dealing with trade secrets or secret business information creates a strong likelihood of causing damage, old information possibly does not merit the same degree of exposure or protection as fundamental trade secrets or current business plans. This should not be subjected to camera footage because it can be malicious to business ventures. In cases where it concern international security, allowing cameras in the proceedings will only serve to volatize the situations.
I believe also that the fundamental rights as well as their safety concerns should come before the rights and mere of the press and the public. The sole purpose of the media owning the cameras in courtrooms is to make money out other peoples misfortunes. Although, the cameras in the courtrooms may help sensitize the public on core issues, it must not violate the rights of the witnesses or the accused. The camera footage must not also influence the outcomes of trials, which would deprive the rights of individuals. Selective view of the court’s proceeding will only lead to a very partial, deceptive picture of the courts and is the cause of the public’s lack of assurance in the legal systems. Through either not viewing all the still pictures or the entire coverage or simply viewing bits and pieces of the trials, the audiences may be misled and form impartial opinions on the grounds of footage they view. This could potentially lead to dangerous uproar in the public in case high profile cases.
In concealing the identity of the witnesses, banning cameras in the courtrooms is significant. For instance, witnesses testifying in favor of gay marriage may be subjects of harassment in the public if they are in a photo session. Cameras in courtrooms will not provide any rights of privacy to individuals. If they find themselves in such situations, they may not open up to the proceedings. They feel that they do not have to do anything that will turn the trial into a circus. More witnesses will be willing to testify in courts, if the presence of the cameras in eliminated (Siegel, 2007).
In conclusion, to avoid any controversial issue in court’s proceedings is to ban the presence of cameras in the courtroom. This will lead to a fair judgment, protection of human rights as well as granting the witnesses a favorable condition to deliver correct and sound evidence without any fear of intimidation. It will also help the judges to deliver a fair judgment without any fear of public scrutiny. The rights of the victims of juvenile cases are protected, and their concerns safeguarded. The very fundamentals rights would not compromised at the expense of the media owners making profits by covering the proceedings. The basic human rights should come before the media rights of making money at the expense of individual misfortunes. In the presence of cameras, the witnesses may opt to present false or seemingly unsure statements that the judges may disregard. Therefore, I believe that for a fair trial to proceed, the presence of cameras in the court should be done away with at all cost.
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