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Minnesota Supreme Court hears arguments for and against cameras in courtrooms

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TV or not TV?

That is the question the Minnesota Supreme Court has to decide, after a Tuesday hearing on the idea of letting cameras into courtrooms around the state.

Minnesota has been a holdout while most other states, including neighboring Wisconsin and Iowa, have allowed cameras in court for decades.

Ramsey County Judge Richard Kyle spoke for a committee that opposes the use of cameras, saying many lawyers still worry that live media coverage might turn a trial into a circus.

“It was never over 50 percent, but there was always 30, 40, 45 percent of the litigants had concerns that people were play-acting, that the judges (were) acting a little different, the witnesses were more tense than usual,” Kyle said.

The camera debate in Minnesota was revived after the highly publicized trials of police officers Derek Chauvin and Kim Potter, convicted of killing civilians in the line of duty.

But attorney Mark Anfinson, representing newspapers and broadcasters, says there have been very few problems with having cameras cover courts.

“So if they’ve been legitimately charged and are guilty of the crime,” he said, “that will come out in court. But if they’re not, if they’ve been railroaded or falsely charged, or the charges have been exaggerated, that will also come out in court.”

Speakers at the hearing, including justices on the high court, expressed concerns that non-white defendants could be presumed guilty if people see them in court through media coverage.

The justices have not indicated when they might rule on requests for greater media coverage of court hearings.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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