Cameras to be allowed at some Illinois trials

January 25, 2012 4:06:12 AM PST
The Illinois Supreme Court announced a new policy Tuesday that allows cameras at state trials -- with some limitations.

Cameras have been allowed in courts in most states for the better part of three decades, except in Illinois. Until now. On Tuesday, the Illinois Supreme Court decided to allow cameras into the courts as part of a pilot program.

Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride wrote, "This is another step to bring more transparency and more accountability to the Illinois Court system. The chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court agrees, saying cameras are in the public's interest.

"I believe we can do this so they can see our judges are impartial and that the judges do justice and justice is the cornerstone of the decisions they make," Hon. Timothy Evans, Chief Judge of Cook Co. Circuit Ct., said.

The long held argument has been that cameras in the courtroom are a distraction and that justice would be demeaned by lawyers playing to the public lens.

"A good lawyer plays to the jury because the jury is the finder of fact. It doesn't matter what the public thinks. It's what the jury thinks," Steve Greenberg, defense attorney, said.

"It's about anyone in America anyone that's a citizen of this country having access to our courts to see what's going on - what our government is doing," Sam Adam, defense attorney, said.

Cameras won't be allowed in juvenile cases, divorce, child custody, and other situations that are self-evident -- like testimony from undercover agents, informants, victims of sex crimes. Also, the cameras will not be pointed at the jury before and during the trial -- and the trial judge has the final say so. Each of the state's 23 judicial circuits has to formally apply to be part of the pilot program. Cook County's chief judge says he's enthusiastically on board.

"In a Democratic society, the people ought to know what goes on in their courtrooms and we're going to see to it that they see justice done," Evans said.

The change is only for state trials, so cameras would not be allowed in federal courtrooms, like the cases of George Ryan or Rod Blagojevich.