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gorillapaws's avatar

What are the legal issues related to cameras in the courtroom?

Asked by gorillapaws (16360 points ) July 20th, 2010

Why might cameras be allowed, why might they be banned (protecting the identity of minors is one obvious consideration)?

Apparently today the judge allowed cameras to film the Lindsay Lohan’s appearance in court up until the time when she was remanded into the custody of the state. The cameras were ordered to be turned off when she was cuffed and taken into custody. It got me wondering why they allow filming one part but not the other? What are the legal principles at work? She’s convicted, so it’s not a matter of protecting the identity of the innocent.

I’m mostly interested in hearing from people who are aware of the legal principles, and discussing the merits of the law. Please refrain from sharing your opinion of Lohan or the paparazzi (which I’m sure many of us have).

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6 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

In this situation, I suppose that cameras are allowed because of the high profile nature of the case. As an ex-photojournalist, I can tell you that we are at the mercy of the courts decision whether to allow cameras or not.

I’ve often wondered if the courts decision isn’t swayed by padding pockets. Certainly media knows the value of broadcasting high profile cases, especially those involving celebrities. I’m not one to suppose that all that content would be given away for free.

As to why the cameras are cut off at a certain time, are you positive they were? Perhaps the producer cut the vid simply because it fit the allotted time slot. Perhaps it’s part of their yearly negotiated contracts with the courts. Perhaps the station didn’t want to shell out the xtra dough to cover the extra time. Perhaps it’s all an elaborate publicity stunt designed to duplicate the Brittany Spears meltdown. Free publicity is valuable, good or bad. And this incident will be forgotten in less than a heartbeat, as soon as talk shows start booking Lindsay a few months from now.

gorillapaws's avatar

Thanks for the reply. From this clip of today’s court proceedings at about 3 minutes in, they discuss how the judge had written an order the previous week preventing video or still photography of Lindsay being handcuffed.

I hope this discussion doesn’t just focus on the Lohan thing, I just brought it up because it was a catalyst for the larger question of cameras in the courtroom.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I can’t remember if OJ was shown handcuffed or not. His case was obviously not for publicity. But it sure did bring in the ratings. Someone like Spears or Lohan could easily have a secret contract preventing certain images from being shot. It’s not much to suppose that the courtroom was turned into a film studio just to get the publicity monster rolling for a new book on coming back from addiction.

I know for a fact I’ve seen tv shows like Unsolved Mysteries or Americas Most Wanted where the perp is shown cuffed and chained at the legs. Sometimes they have the entire gang chained up.

Now that I think about it, it seems that I’m hearing of more and more judges ordering jurors not to watch media reports on the court cases they are involved with. Why would they do that if cameras weren’t allowed in court. And how is photo/vid really any different from artist renderings? There is a case to be made that photo/vid would actually show more authenticity than perhaps a biased artist rendering.

SmoothEmeraldOasis's avatar

This a great question, I am interested in knowing what differences are in the different states.

flo's avatar

I think maybe the part that shows her being handfcuffed only adds to the sensationalism. The public already knows that she is going to jail.
In general some judges don’t want cameras because it makes people on the stand do some acting, and some may feel too shy and they say less than they should. It makes the courtroom more like a circus too.

roundsquare's avatar

I’m just starting law school here, but I can imagine privacy problems, especially in cases involving sexual assault. People have very strong views on this, to the extent that some Good Samaritan laws have been attacked on this front.

Other than that, I see very little difference between a camera and the fact that most cases have a transcript. As long as the video is subject to the same restrictions with respect to public release (or perhaps slightly stricter, not sure) I think its fine.

Now, as for unofficial recordings, thats a bigger problem. Someone with court room experience can tell me if this is true, but I’d imagine that there are often post-trial motions to suppress transcripts. If this happens in a multi-day trial, we can’t be sure that the outside camera people will agree.

Anyway, please note that I’m just going from what little I know.

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