Judge ordered cameras removed from the courtroom yesterday in Kelly Thomas case

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Good afternoon:

An unusual and unexpected disagreement between the prosecution and the media erupted yesterday during opening statements in the Kelly Thomas case. The prosecution objected to not receiving the media’s live feed coverage of opening statements by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and John Barnett, one of the defense attorneys. When representatives of media organizations covering the trial refused to hook them up, Judge William Froeberg ordered them to remove their video and audio recording equipment from the courtroom.

The dispute was unusual and unexpected because gavel to gavel media coverage of trials in state courts is not new and courts have developed a uniform rule that requires media organizations to pool their resources (AKA: the Pooling Agreement) to minimize distractions, accidents and confusion caused by people stumbling over electrical cords and breaking expensive equipment. Pursuant to the agreement, participating media organizations agree to limit coverage to one organization per day assigned on a rotating basis with all participating organizations sharing the live feed generated from the courtroom by the organization with the duty.

The participating media organizations yesterday refused to share the live feed with the Orange County District Attorneys Office because it is not a media organization participating in the pooling agreement.

Hopefully, cooler heads have prevailed today and the cameras are back in place.

39 Responses to Judge ordered cameras removed from the courtroom yesterday in Kelly Thomas case

  1. Girlp says:

    I did not know about this murder until the Professors posts and now I see none of the big 3 seem to be covering the trial….Why? This is not a backpage story. The officer’s behavior is actually very close to Zimmerman.

    • gblock says:

      Much of the description of the way the defense is being handled – making out the victim to be a drug abuser and a dangerous thug – is similar between the two cases. One of them was a fairly normal 17-year-old black boy, and the other was a white man in his 30s with a serious mental illness, but both were members of despised minorities.

      • Girlp says:

        My son is AA and suffers from mental illness at least 3 I fear and pray for him everyday. Something has gone wrong in this country either there has been an increase in police brutality or it’s being reported more often. Thank God for video.

        • Malisha says:

          I believe there is an increase because there has been a further stratification of society and the police are always the protectors of the mighty against the powerless. Their sense that they will be protected no matter what they do because their services are going to be most needed by the most powerful makes them really acquire a Fogen-like sense of invulnerability. Once they are aware they can kill and walk, they kill more.

          A friend of mine recently had to have her son involuntarily committed because of his danger to self and others. After it was over she began to rant against the police officers (4) who apprehended him and took him in to the ER of the mental hospital, because they handcuffed him and treated him like a prisoner and threw him in the back of the police car. While the case has not yet been resolved she was about to start making complaints against them, to “take them down a notch or two.” I cautioned her: “I spoke to [son] and he complained the cuffs were too tight and he was sliding around in the back of the police car but I asked him how he was now and he said OK so I said good. I advise leaving the police alone. Remember, they could have easily killed both of you, blamed your death on him and then thrown him out the window to his death. The 911 call came in saying he was threatening murder and suicide some 6 minutes before that. Don’t look for trouble with the police; be grateful that neither of you was seriously hurt.”

  2. Trained Observer says:

    Off topic: Like the author, I had not known that Adlai Stevenson, at age 12, had fatally shot a girl with a rifle.


    • Malisha says:

      I never knew that story! I too thought very highly of Stevenson but he could never have won — he was DIVORCED, a bigger taboo than killing, in the political world of the day (1952). How much a different country we might have had now if (a) the family of Adlai Stevenson had taken it upon themselves to start the discussion about this country’s love-affair with weapons; and/or (b) Ruth Merwin’s family had done something like that in honor of their daughter’s memory.

      • Trained Observer says:

        Excellent points all, Malisha. (I can remember my parents in the midwest tut-tuting about Stevenson being divorced, even though they liked him.

  3. Tzar says:

    the latest syg victim: 72 yo alzheimer’s victim

    • bettykath says:

      It may be that the shooter in this case will get rid of his gun.

      The husband of a cousin served in Viet Nam and had some problems left over. There was a murder a few miles from their house and he intended to sleep with his hand gun under his pillow. My cousin was adamant that he keep the gun in a box at the back of the shelf in the closet. She had a daughter and she was afraid that daughter would come into their bedroom and he would shoot her before he was fully awake.

    • Boyd says:

      I call it murder.

      • bettykath says:

        I agree. A distant family member chose to drink while on medication. Nice guy when sober, not so nice when not. Shot his wife with a shotgun. He spent several years in prison. When he got out, only some members of his family would have anything to do with him. Interesting family get-togethers.

  4. Drew says:

    Cameras were on during Zimmerman’s sham trial. Now we forever have a record of that horseshit joke.

  5. colin black says:

    Thease eejits were present in the courtroom when events unfolded so why the heck do they need to puruse the days proseedings on vt .

    Don’t they take notes don’t they have memory..
    The dys entire proseedings whom said what when how ect is taken down by stenographers.

    So If there where anything they where not sure about they could ask to read the courts minutes as recorded by the stenographers.

    Geez how do they think lawers get by in countrys like the UK were proceedings are not recorded .

    Or there foe bears before film was invented never mind allowed In court room.

    Bit early to be spitting the dummy.?

    • bettykath says:

      They claim that they want to use the footage for future training. Why can’t they request a copy of the video after the trial?

      It seems that the media would be willing to provide the feed or at least have the discussion but were upset at being blind-sided after the trial began. Sounds like prosecution made the ass u mption that they would get it without requesting it then raised a stink when their assumption was wrong.

  6. Malisha says:

    I can’t see that there is anything in American courtrooms that could possibly be made worse, but by the same token, I doubt there is anything that the media could not worsen. It’s kind of “irresistible object meets immovable force.”

  7. Two sides to a story says:

    Interesting. I’m of the opinion that cameras should probably not be in US courtrooms anyway. Too much media circus can sway cases, as we witnessed in FL with GZ. Okay to have media artists / reporters perhaps, but the blow-by-blow reporting may skew justice in the long run.

    • Federal courts do not permit cameras

      State courts generally permit them, subject to the conditions set forth in state court rules and the pooling agreement. State courts rely on a provision in their state constitution that is similar to, if not identical to the First Amendment right to know in the federal constitution.

      It’s important to distinguish between the media live feed, upon which the media organizations base their reports about the trial, and the official report of court proceedings, upon which the lawyers and the courts base appellate and habeas review.

      The official state court record is generated by a video recording system installed in each courtroom, a system that has replaced court reporters.

      • Rachael says:

        Court reporters have been replaced? That’s news to me – and the court reporters I’ve talked with.

        • I apologize for failing to express myself clearly.

          When I started practicing law in King County in the late 70s, certified court reporters were employed by the King County Superior Court to produce verbatim transcripts. Each reporter was assigned to a particular judge. Whenever court was in session, they would make a record of everything said by witnesses, lawyers and the judge. They used a shorthand system to capture phrases with a single keystroke.

          Upon request, they would produce a verbatim transcript. Depending on the length of the proceeding and their backlog of work, they could produce a verbatim transcript within a few days. Verbatim transcripts of trials could take up to 6 months or more. With few exceptions, the transcripts were accurate.

          During the past 20 years, courts nationwide have been wiring courtrooms to record everything said, video and sound. Some courts rely entirely on the audio/video recording, which is designated as the official record. They no longer employ court reporters. Kentucky is one of the states that no longer employs court reporters. A demand for their services still exists, however. For example, lawyers hire them to cover depositions in civil cases.

          Some state courts continue to employ court reporters and use the audio/video recordings as a back-up system. Florida does that.

          I prefer the verbatim transcripts because they have fewer errors and I can review them faster. Lawyers and witnesses have an annoying tendency to talk over each other at times and when they do, their remarks become unintelligible.

          • Xena says:

            In Illinois, civil hearings have no court reporter. Either party can hire their own. Proceedings are tape recorded by the court’s system and if a transcript is needed, the assistant to the judge is the one who transcribes the tape.

            I’ve known situations where the deposit requested was high but after the transcript was completed, there was a significant refund. It appears the high deposit was to discourage the ordering of transcript.

          • bettykath says:

            And the transcript includes only what the court reporter heard? So some comments may be lost?

          • Two sides to a story says:

            So if Orange County, Cali courts have either electronic recording or court reporters, or both, why is the prosecution asking the media for their recording?

          • Good question. The law is well settled that the First Amendment protects the people’s right to know what is happening in trials and the complementary right of media news organizations to attend and contemporaneously report that information. The pooling agreement, which limits media news organizations and reporters to one television camera and sharing the live feed, provides a procedure that allows the media to do what it needs to do without disrupting the proceedings. This successful procedure has been in effect for approximately 20 years. All of a sudden, this prosecutor is insisting that his office should have a live feed.

            The First Amendment protects the gathering and dissemination of information to we the people. It does not confer a greater right to that information upon prosecutors, who are present in the courtroom with the ability to acquire the same information from the court reporter or the court’s recording system. Therefore, I believe the request should have been denied.

  8. bettykath says:

    I think the refusal might have been based on the idea that a single member of a group cannot unilateral violate an agreement with the other members of the group. Why did the prosecution expect to the feed in the first place?

    • Two sides to a story says:

      “The pool crew refused to hand over the feed Monday to prosecutors because providing it to one of the parties in the case would violate journalism ethics,” said Patti Paniccia, co-counsel for the Radio & Television News Assn. of Southern California.


      • crazy1946 says:

        Two sides to a story,

        ” violate journalism ethics”

        Hmmm, that seems to be a perfect example of an oxymoron! One might only ask, what ethics do todays journalist have? I honestly think it would be in the publics interest to ensure un-edited and altered video is not passed on to the public as truth, that the state have an unedited copy of the video taken at the trial. This is especially true in the age of “brebart” style video, where manipulated video is in use to control the publics knowledge of the news and current events….

        • lurker says:

          Not certain exactly the thinking, but recalling back in jrn 101, it seems as though one did not, ethically, provide a right of review to any subjects of reporting.

          But there is a lot of stuff online today (like Bretbart) that merely poses as journalism–all ethics lacking.

          • crazy1946 says:

            lurker, While I have no doubt there are still a few honest people involved in the business of selling news to the public, there are many more (IMO) that are guilty of opinionating their views of the news upon the public for gain, perhaps financially or politically…. When you can’t even read a simple story about an incident involving a gun with out having the POTUS brought into the story, there is a serious problem with the agenda of the news agency, add the editing of video to twist the words of people to make it appear as if they said something just the opposite of what they intended, and we have the perfect example of todays news agenda. No, I’m not just poking at Rupert Murdoch’s fake news network, all the current alleged news agency’s are guilty in various ways… But in the interest of being fair, they are simply giving the American public what the people want and are willing to pay for. This is proven by the numbers of people who idolize the likes of Rush, Alex Jones, Glen Beck and etc… How many people do you know that believe every word that comes from these peoples mouths? If they were to say the sky is falling, the sale of helmets would soar out of site immediately…. We have a problem and until the people demand a change, it will remain as it is or ever worsen….

          • lurker says:

            Crazy–Rachel Maddow did a nice long piece on journalistic ethics within the context of a free press last night. This was leading into the release today of 911 calls regarding the school shooting in Connecticut. All about balancing the right of the public to know and the privacy rights of victims. Never an easy set of decisions.

            However, an overriding theme was that in this country the press is free and unfettered–they can do whatever they want. And I do believe that this falls in line with founding ideals. Freedom of the Press never aimed at “fair and balanced reporting.” It aimed at a free marketplace of ideas. The ethics of journalists have developed from a different set of ideas, those that believe that with freedom comes responsibility. I think that we have come to expect something more like “fair and balanced” in response to legislation that sought to prevent cornering of the market over limited airwaves. As the government had a role in licensing radio and later television–and as bandwidth was limited–there were protections specifically put in place (provision of time for dissenting views, for instance) to serve the public good and particularly the right to know. But, I think that this is not only a different kettle of fish, but also one that, with the advent of nearly unlimited cable and internet broadcasting, has pretty much passed away.

            I can only speculate on who pissed off whom leading to the banning of press cameras in this particular courtroom. But, I do understand, and support, the decision of any independent broadcast entity to hold at arms length and subjects of reporting.

          • crazy1946 says:


            ” But, I do understand, and support, the decision of any independent broadcast entity to hold at arms length and subjects of reporting.”

            While I respect your position, and actually agree with it in theory, we will never agree in totality about this. One thing that does not bother me is the idea of “fair and balanced”. I really don’t care so much about that as long as what is reported is not twisted and distorted or altered to fit into an agenda that is biased and untrue. Simply said, all I expect is for them to tell the “truth” and not the truth according to the way they want to tell it… I apply the same rule to politicians and political campaigns, “tell the truth”! Then again, I suppose in todays times that is asking for too much, right…..

          • Two sides to a story says:

            Don’t a lot of courts do their own electronic recording of cases anyway?

    • bettykath says:

      And would expect a decision to change the agreement is well over the pay grade of those operating the equipment,

  9. Why do you think the media refused to share the feed? Fear of setting a precedent that would require them possibly share with other non-media entities in the future?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: