Friday, November 20, 2009

Cameras for the 9/11 Trial

      The idea of allowing TV cameras and radio microphones inside the upcoming federal trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is drawing support from an unusual segment of the political world. Check out the above link from the Huffington Post, where Senator Arlen Specter speaks in favor of electronic coverage of the proceedings.FEDERAL courts are still under a mandate NOT to allow cameras in the vast majority of cases.

     I've covered trials from Rodney King to Robert Blake, and, of course, the OJ case, which resulted in an off-the-record blackout of live coverage for years thereafter. Judges, especially in LA, were afraid of becoming "Ito-Ized", terrified their mistakes would be put on display for the entire world to see. A POST OJ rule also allowed them to deny cameras without giving a reason ,or holding any hearings.As President of the Radio-TV News Association, I spent years working with the courts, judges and lawyers helping the local radio and TV stations get back into the judicial process, but much work still needs to be done.
     It may seem counter-intuitive to even CONSIDER giving a piece of human excrement like KSM an open microphone, but consider this: It's the only way to show both the American people (in real time) how we prosecute terrorists, and the outside world that we (hopefully) have a fair and honest court system.
     Advice to the judge who ends up presiding over the case: Run a no- nonsense courtroom, don't LET your case turn into a circus, and allow the media to show the world (in real time) what's going on. The last thing we need is a star chamber where all the documents are sealed and all of the witnesses sequestered. The many tricks, gimmicks, and sometimes illegal tactics used by BOTH sides in the People Vs. O.J. Simpson generated many reprimands from judge Ito, but at the end of the day, he dismissed ALL of his sanctions, and none of the lawyers paid any fines, nor were any investigated by the state bar. For supporters of the 1st Amendment, some good news: the California Judicial Council is considering an edict ordering judges to allow cameras, unless they can show a compelling reason, in writing, why they shouldn't.

    

41 comments:

  1. Lots of this is covered in "Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson", which includes your perspective, Steve, for which I'm grateful. Something you raise here that I want to check is the issue of fines levied on the lawyers. Years after the trial, Ito told me why he keep all of the fines except one below $1,000, and the difficulties the lawyer he fined more than $1,000 and reported to the state Bar has had as a result.

    As for televising the KSM trial, why not? The Saddam Hussein trial was televised in Baghdad for the very reasons you say the KSM trial should be televised.

    I hope you're right about the radio biz -- that's my main source of news! I like your blog and blog alerts on Facebook. Keep up the great work.

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  13. Here's an update. This is the trial that was censored by spooks if I remember correctly.

    http://www.theworld.org/2013/01/censors-911-mastermind-tribunal/

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