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Mississippi panel to look at cameras in courtrooms

By The Associated Press

12.02.01

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Closed-circuit cameras stand ready to focus on Mississippi Supreme Court justices on June 6 in Jackson.

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James. E. Graves Jr. will head a committee that will study the feasibility of allowing cameras in the trial courts.

Chief Justice Ed Pittman told a group of journalists at the Supreme Court on Nov. 27 that he would announce a plan on how to study the matter.

Graves said on Nov. 28 that he planned to take a broader look at issues including news media access to the courts and the relationship between the press and the judiciary.

"I hope ultimately that the committee can improve the relationship between the courts and the media, because both entities exist to serve the public interest," Graves said.

Graves said he would expect some discussion of the issuance of gag orders and how judges may respond to public criticism.

Pittman, who was instrumental in starting live Internet broadcasts of oral arguments at the Supreme Court in April, said that experiment had worked "very well." The state Court of Appeals started doing the same thing in August.

The study committee headed by Graves is expected to include at least six other judges: two circuit judges, two chancery judges, a county judge and a justice court judge. Graves said the committee expected to begin work by mid-December.

At the Mississippi Supreme Court, broadcast journalists may access and record video and audio from courtroom cameras via portals outside the courtroom. Still photographs may be reproduced from a CD recording of the proceedings at the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

In the trial courts, Pittman said, "It's much more difficult to open those courts to a media view." Pittman said his concern was courtroom reaction to the presence of cameras.

"We don't want the jurors to become a part of a skit or a scene. We don't want the judge to become part of being an actor in a courtroom," he said.

Other than the Internet cameras, all other types of cameras are forbidden in the supreme and appellate courts. State trial courts do not allow cameras at all.

Related

Senate panel passes cameras-in-court bill
Legislation would give federal judges option of allowing proceedings to be televised, photographed.  11.30.01

Justice and Journalism
Justice and Journalism program description.  11.30.01

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