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Cameras banned from murder trial

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Broadcasting         Jan 11, 2001    

Cameras banned from murder trial

  • Media forced to use only audio recording equipment during a highly publicized murder trial.

A California judge ruled against permitting cameras into a courtroom to cover the murder trial of Josefina Sonia Saldana. News organizations will be allowed to use audio equipment to record the proceedings.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Gary Austin said on Jan. 9 that his decision was based on a balancing of his desires to have a trial open to the public and to maintain the dignity of the courtroom. Austin also said it will be up to individual witnesses to decide if they want their voices recorded.

Prosecutor Blake Gunderson said he favors the decision.

“I don’t think cameras have a place in California courtrooms,” he said, adding that they were a distraction and destroyed the dignity of the proceedings.

After opposing a plan by the governor in 1996 to ban cameras from all courtrooms, the state Judicial Council decided to grant presiding judges the authority to permit, refuse or limit camera coverage in the courtroom. When deciding the question of camera access, the council provided judges with a list of factors to consider, which include: importance of maintaining public trust in the judicial system, the consent of the parties, nature of the case, privacy rights of the participants and the dignity of the court.

Attorneys for Saldana, who is accused of dismembering a woman in order to steal her fetus in September 1998, said they do not oppose the use of cameras at the trial.

(California v. Saldana) EH

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© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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