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Cameras allowed in SLA bombing trial

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Broadcasting         Apr 17, 2001    

Cameras allowed in SLA bombing trial

  • Prosecutors failed to convince a California judge that camera coverage of the trial of Sara Olson would change the atmosphere more than print coverage alone.

Both still and video cameras will be allowed in the Los Angeles trial of a former Symbionese Liberation Army member under an April 13 order.

Broadcast media, including Court TV, and the defense attorney fought for the admission of cameras because the trial has great public interest. Sara Jane Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, is accused of trying to bomb Los Angeles police cars in 1975 in retaliation for the deaths of six SLA members in a police shootout. The bombs did not detonate. Olson had been living as a Minnesota housewife and mother until her arrest in June 1999 after her picture appeared on “America’s Most Wanted.”

During the hearing March 30 on camera access, Fidler told the prosecution: “There is going to be coverage of this case and the print media is free to report on what happens in this trial. You have to tell me how the television coverage differs.”

Prosecutors argued that testimony in the trial could teach viewers how to make bombs. They also said if allegations about the SLA’s possible involvement in a 1975 murder committed during a Sacramento area bank robbery were to arise during testimony, it could undermine the accused’s right to a fair trial if the case were to go to court.

Three television cameras will have fixed views of the lawyer’s podium, the judge’s bench and the witness stand. Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler is expected to put the media rules in writing next week, court spokesman Kyle Christopherson told the Associated Press.

(California v. Olson; Media Counsel: Kelli Sager, Davis Wright Tremaine, Los Angeles) EH

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