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Cameras now barred from Terry Nichols hearings

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    NMU         OKLAHOMA         Broadcasting         Jun 6, 2000    

Cameras now barred from Terry Nichols hearings

  • The public has no constitutional right to view televised trials, an Oklahoma Criminal Appeals Court ruled, overturning a decision that would have allowed cameras in the Terry Nichols trial.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in Oklahoma City ruled June 1 that the order granted by Judge Robert Murphy Jr., which would have allowed cameras to televise the pretrial hearing of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, would “violate [his] right to due process of the law” as guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution.

The appellate court relied on U.S. Supreme Court decisions finding that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a public trial belongs to the accused, not the public, and that there is no “constitutional provision [that] guarantees a right to televise trials.” Those cases, however, were decided before the high court determined in the 1980s that there is a presumptive First Amendment right of access to courtrooms.

Nichols’ attorney Brian Hermanson asked the court May 26 to stay the proceedings and vacate Murphy’s order allowing cameras at the hearings because, he argued, it would generate even more pre-trial publicity and further compromise Nichols’ right to a fair and an impartial jury.

Murphy, the presiding judge in the pretrial hearings, wrote on May 8 that an Oklahoma Supreme Court rule prohibiting electronic coverage of proceedings violates the state and federal constitutions and therefore would have no bearing on his decision. He found that the trial or presiding judge has final authority to order, manage and control the courtroom and that camera coverage would not adversely affect a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

(Oklahoma v. Nichols; Media Counsel: Robert Nelon, Oklahoma City)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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