Defendant does not have Sixth Amendment right to televised trial
RHODE ISLAND–In mid-February, the Rhode Island Supreme Court in Providence unanimously held that a criminal defendant does not have a right to a televised trial.
The appellate panel noted that state court rules prohibit review of the trial justice’s decision to prohibit cameras in the courtrooms, and found no “constitutional implications” in the exercise of a justice’s discretion.
The defendant, Craig Price, challenged his conviction for simple assault and extortion in part because the trial court denied his request for a televised trial.
Price argued that the decision to televise court proceedings should no longer be discretionary because the “‘electronic age’ of contemporary society requires that a defendant’s right to a public trial include the televised coverage of his trial.” The state argued that the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial does not give a defendant a right to televised coverage.
At trial, the prosecution expressed concern that television coverage of the trial would unnerve the jury, but indicated that it would defer to the court’s discretion. Price asserted that televised coverage would provide him with a “more balanced public presentation.”
The Superior Court justice in Providence who presided over Price’s trial denied Price’s request out of fear that the networks would manipulate the video by taking short segments out of context, and that the presence of cameras would prejudice Price. The court also indicated that ten of the fourteen jurors had objected to the idea of televised proceedings when asked. (Rhode Island v. Price; Defense Counsel: Robert Mann, Providence)