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NCJ Number: 67850 Find in a Library
Title: DOES RESEARCH SUPPORT THE ESTES BAN ON CAMERAS IN THE COURTROOM?
Journal: JUDICATURE  Volume:63  Issue:10  Dated:(MAY 1980)  Pages:466-475
Author(s): K NETTEBURG
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: Andrews University
Berrien Springs, MI 49104
National Assoc of Broadcasters
Washington, DC 20036
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE SUPREME COURT'S 1965 DECISION BARRING CAMERAS AT A TRIAL IS REVIEWED, AND RESULTS FROM EMPIRICAL STUDIES ARE USED TO EVALUATE THE BASIS FOR THE DECISION.
Abstract: IN ESTES V. TEXAS, THE SUPREME COURT RULED THAT CAMERAS AT A TRIAL MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE DEFENDANT TO RECEIVE A FAIR TRIAL. THREE ARGUMENTS SUPPORTED THE DECISION: (1) THERE IS A PREPONDERANCE OF JUDICIAL DISAPPROVAL OF CAMERAS IN COURTROOMS; (2) CAMERAS AND MICROPHONES FRIGHTEN WITNESSES, IMPAIR JURORS' CONCENTRATION, ADD TO THE JUDGE'S DUTIES, AND IMPINGE ON UNFETTERED COURTROOM COMMUNICATION BETWEEN COUNSEL AND CLIENT; AND (3) TELEVISION TRIALS WOULD CREATE SUCH PUBLIC PREJUDICE AGAINST THE DEFENDANT THAT OBJECTIVITY IN TRIAL PROCEEDINGS WOULD BE UNDERMINED. THE COURT'S FIRST LINE OF REASONING IS NO LONGER VALID, SINCE THE PREPONDERANCE OF OPINION HAS NOW SHIFTED TOWARD THE USE OF CAMERAS AT TRIALS (TWO-THIRDS OF THE STATES CURRENTLY EITHER ALLOW COURT PHOTOGRAPHY OR ARE CONTEMPLATING SUCH A CHANGE). IN RESPONSE TO THE SECOND ARGUMENT, SURVEYS OF TRIAL PARTICIPANTS AND THE LEGAL COMMUNITIES IN FLORIDA AND WISCONSIN, WHERE CAMERAS ARE PERMITTED AT TRIALS, SHOW NO SERIOUS OBJECTIONS TO TELEVISED TRIALS. THE THIRD COURT ARGUMENT WAS EMPIRICALLY TESTED THROUGH A SURVEY OF 300 RESPONDENTS RANDOMLY SELECTED FROM THE PHONE DIRECTORIES OF 2 WISCONSIN CITIES. THE TELEPHONE SURVEY QUESTIONED RESPONDENTS ABOUT ATTITUDES TOWARD TELEVISED TRIALS IN PARTICULAR AND ABOUT SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE OF A TRIAL RECENTLY TELEVISED IN THE TWO CITIES, THAT OF JENNIFER PATRI. PATRI WAS CHARGED WITH MURDERING HER HUSBAND AND WITH SETTING FIRE TO THE HOUSE TO OBSCURE EVIDENCE OF THE CRIME. THE DATA OBTAINED CONTRADICT THE BELIEF THAT TELEVISION COVERAGE OF A TRIAL CAN UNDERMINE AN ACCUSED'S CASE: 66 PERCENT OF THOSE INTERVIEWED WHO KNEW THE DEFENDANT'S REASON FOR KILLING HER HUSBAND (HE BEAT HER) FOUND HER DEFENSE CREDIBLE. GENERAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT TRIAL PROCEEDINGS WAS POOR, INDICATING LOW EMOTIONAL REACTION TO THE PROCEEDINGS. THE MOST DISTURBING FINDING WAS THAT THE MAJORITY OF THE RESPONDENTS BELIEVED THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS CONVICTED OF BOTH MURDER AND ARSON, WHEN SHE WAS ACTUALLY CONVICTED ONLY OF THE MURDER CHARGE. STILL, THERE IS LITTLE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE SUPREME COURT DECISION BANNING THE USE OF CAMERAS AT TRIALS. FOOTNOTES ARE PROVIDED.
Index Term(s): Courtroom proceedings broadcasting; Critiques; Judicial decisions; Studies; US Supreme Court
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