|NMU||ALABAMA||Broadcasting||Apr 26, 2001|
Court bans cameras in arson trial after prosecutor objects
- The district attorney in the trial of an accused church bomber used his power to veto cameras in the courtroom.
The Radio-Television News Directors Association asked an Alabama district attorney to reconsider his objection to audiovisual coverage of the trial of a man accused of bombing a Birmingham church in 1963.
Opening statements in the trial of former Ku Klux Klansman Thomas Blanton commenced April 24 without the presence of cameras in the courtroom. Blanton is the second of four suspects tried on murder charges for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young black girls. Blanton could face life in prison if convicted on four counts.
Under Alabama law, every party to a legal case must consent to camera coverage of a trial. Any objection will bar camera access. Circuit Judge James Garrett in Birmingham said he would agree to allow cameras into the courtroom with all the parties’ consent, according to the Agence France Presse.
“While we recognize that Alabama’s rules concerning camera coverage permit a veto of televised coverage by any of the parties, we do not believe that such an objection is warranted in this case, where the public’s ‘right to know’ is so compelling,” RTNDA legal counsel Kathleen Kirby said in a April 20 letter to District Attorney David Barber.
“The profound social, political and legal issues involved in the trial of Mr. Blanton for one of the big crimes of the civil rights era are obvious,” Kirby continued. “Without television coverage of these historic proceedings, the public will be forced once again to depend on secondhand accounts filtered by the perceptions of reporters.”
RTNDA represents local and network news executives in broadcasting, cable and other electronic media.
© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press