Media makes case for cameras in Kendall, Kane courtrooms
By Matt Hanley firstname.lastname@example.org May 3, 2012 11:38AM
Jason Schaumburg, an editor for the Daily Chronical in DeKalb, addresses Judge Tim McCann and others present at a judicial hearing regarding cameras in the courtroom at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles on Monday, May 2, 2012. | Photo by Steven Buyansky
Members of the media and public addressed a committee trying to determine whether to allow cameras in courtrooms in Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties.
In January, the state Supreme Court announced counties could apply to be part of a pilot program that would allow cameras and recording in the courtroom. Illinois is one of 24 states which do not allow cameras. Kendall County Judge Tim McCann is heading a committee for Kane and Kendall. On Wednesday, the committee asked for public comment.
More than a dozen media representatives were in attendance. Staff from the Sun-Times Media, Kane County Chronicle, WSPY radio and the Daily Herald gave comment. One television reporter who records pool footage for four stations was present. Not surprisingly, media representatives were overwhelmingly in favor of visual and sound access to the courtroom.
“People tend to trust what they can see and they are wary of what they cannot see,” said Beacon-News photographer Brian Powers.
“We don’t want to be part of the story,” said Kane County Chronicle Managing Editor Kathy Gresey.
“We want to cover the news. We want to be as unobtrusive as possible.”
Several attorneys have argued greater access could puncture myths about the courtroom. Other attorneys worry cameras could contaminate the judicial process.
Rosemarie Slavenas, a former caseworker for the Cook County Department of Public Assistance and Northern Illinois University professor, argued that increased media attention will affect the poor to a greater degree. Slavenas said trials will become perp walks for poor defendants who will repeatedly be shown in their jail uniforms.
“This is a pilot program. It should remain a pilot program, not after-dinner entertainment,” she said.
Under the new rules, any objections to filming during the testimony of sex abuse victims, police informants, undercover agents and relocated witnesses would be granted. Cameras would be barred during jury selection as well as juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody, evidence suppression and trade secret cases. Witnesses can request not to be photographed.
Joseph Tybor, a spokesman for the state Supreme Court, said TV cameras are filming this week in Henry County, where a woman is accused of theft for collecting more than $10,000 from community members who thought she had cancer. Tybor said the case has gone on without a hitch so far.