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Concerns over cameras in court, jury room halt murder trial

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    NMU         TEXAS         Broadcasting         Nov 27, 2002    

Concerns over cameras in court, jury room halt murder trial

  • PBS’ “Frontline” got the go-ahead to videotape the entire trial — including jury deliberations — of a 17-year-old murder defendant for a documentary, but the state’s high court wants the judge to address concerns of critics.

Jury selection had begun Nov. 25 in the Houston murder trial of 17-year-old Cedric Harrison when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the trial and gave state district judge Ted Poe one week to explain his decision to allow videocameras to tape the trial and the juror’s deliberations.

Poe had granted approval to PBS’ “Frontline” to videotape the entire trial, saying that it would be educational for the public.

But claiming cameras would influence the jury, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal asked the state’s highest criminal court to reverse the judge’s order.

If the taping is allowed, the Houston Chronicle reported that the capital murder jury would become the first in the country to have its deliberations videotaped.

Producers of the show claimed that the documentary would promote understanding of the judicial process. In a brief filed with Poe, “Frontline” lawyers wrote: “Taping the trial would provide a greater understanding of the reality of capital law and the administration of our capital system.”

Under the agreed upon plan, the producers would use an “unobtrusive ceiling camera,” with videotapes kept sealed by the court until after the verdict.

“Frontline” had the approval of Harrison and his attorneys to film the case.

According to court coordinator Heather Ramsey, no jurors so far have objected to the cameras and only two out of 110 said it would affect their decisions.

Harrison is accused of a fatal shooting in a carjacking June 2.

(Texas v. Harrison) JL

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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