Reply to peer KB: Having taken into account this week’s readings, I believe that news cameras should not be allowed in the courtroom during criminal trials. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to “an impartial jury.” (Bakhshay & Haney, 2018). Therefore, allowing cameras into the courtroom, not only infringes on one of our fundamental rights but “research has demonstrated, news stories about recent crimes are typically skewed and one-sided, often assuming that the defendant is already guilty” (Vitelli, 2018). This is problematic because jurors are going to have negative attitudes toward the accused making it more likely for them to convict the individual based on bias rather than facts. What’s more, “these stories frequently include prejudicial information that is rarely allowed during the actual criminal trial” (Vitelli, 2018) which goes to show how unreliable and untrustworthy these sources are. Not to mention, the media has a notorious reputation for altering cases to their advantage based on what will get people’s attention and ultimately serves no purpose during criminal trials other than infringing on our right to a fair trial.
On the other hand, an advantage of allowing news cameras in the courtroom is that it allows the general public to form their own opinion of a case. It also allows them to understand the case better. However, a substantial disadvantage is that it can be a major distraction during courtroom proceedings. In the state of California, where I currently reside there are only two exceptions for allowing cameras in the courtroom. Cameras are only allowed during high-demand proceedings and if the footage is being used by the “pilot project sponsored by the United States Courts” (United States District Court, 2019). I think that these are fair exceptions because in other cases involving crimes such as murder or rape, the publicity surrounding the case can get heated and emotional for those involved.
Bakhshay, S., & Haney, C. (2018). The media’s impact on the right to a fair trial: A content analysis of pretrial publicity in capital cases. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 24(3), 326–340
Court rules affecting the Media. United States District Court, Northern District of California. (2019, March 27). Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.cand.uscourts.gov/media/court-rules-affecting-the-media/
Vitelli, R. (2018, August 22). How “trial by media” can undermine the courtroom. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201808/how-trial-media-can-undermine-the-courtroom
Reply to peer GP: Good afternoon,
This topic could easily be argued either way. I chose to look at this from a strictly judicial process viewpoint. With that being said, news cameras should not be allowed in the courtroom during criminal trials. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to a fair and impartial jury. When the media is involved, members of the judicial process are affected whether they realize it or not. We have seen many examples of how the media has impacted public opinion in such cases as Pamela Smart, O.J. Simpson, or Aaron Hernandez. Media is traditionally one-sided and unfortunately, a majority of the population take what they see or hear on the news as gospel (Bakhshay & Haney, 2018).
What may be the effects of cameras being allowed in the courtroom during criminal trials? Consider both positive and negative effects?
Allowing news cameras into the courtroom may cause jurors to become distracted and more concerned with getting their 10 seconds of fame instead of focusing in on the evidence and details of the case. Attorney’s may grandstand a bit in hopes to draw some media attention for personal benefit which may take some of their focus away from their clients. Witnesses may be uncomfortable being on television and appear nervous which could come across as being deceptive. This could hurt their credibility with jurors. There can be a positive effect of the court actors being more meticulous than normal as they are being scrutinized by the country or sometimes the world. Also, cameras allow the public to witness the judicial process first-hand and may improve the transparency and perception of the legal process (Strickland, 2009).
What are the exceptions, if any, to allowing cameras in the courtroom during criminal trials?
One exception to allowing cameras in the courtroom would be if the cameras were hidden so they were unintrusive as possible. The court actors should be unaware of their presence, so their focus remains on the trial itself. Another exception would be to provide a video record of the proceedings from a historical perspective. Also, some defendants have attacked attorneys or judges during a trial, cameras capture the violence which can be used as evidence against the defendant. There should be consideration in protecting juveniles and vulnerable populations against unnecessary media exposure which can cause further victimization.
Bakhshay, S., & Haney, C. (2018). The media’s impact on the right to a fair trial: A content analysis of pretrial publicity in capital cases. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 24(3), 326–340.
Strickland, R. A. (2009). Cameras in the courtroom. Cameras in the Courtroom.