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Judge allows cameras at sentencing in arson death

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         NEW YORK         Broadcasting         Jun 13, 2000    

Judge allows cameras at sentencing in arson death

  • A judge delivered a woman’s sentence in front of television cameras that he had allowed into the courtroom, after previously denying cameras access to the trial.

Local news cameras rolled June 8 as Judge Peter Corning of Rochester handed down a sentence of six years imprisonment for a woman who started a fire that killed her son.

Until June 6 Corning had not allowed camera coverage of the case, basing his decision on a 1952 state civil rights law that prohibits “televising, broadcasting or taking motion pictures” of witnesses who are testifying under subpoena. Corning offered no reasons for changing his stance on allowing cameras in the Davis case. “I just decided,” he said.

Camera access to courtrooms has been a hot issue in New York state over the past few months.

In February, a state trial judge in Albany declared the 1952 law unconstitutional, allowing cameras in the courtroom during the trial of New York City police officers Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy, who shot Amadou Diallo to death. In March, another state judge in Rochester allowed a camera in the Cayuga County courtroom to cover a civil lawsuit involving a local bank. Those decisions, however, were not binding on Corning.

In May, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would authorize audio-visual coverage for two years while granting victims and some witnesses broad

veto power.

Corning spared the mother, Michelle Davis, the 20-year sentence sought by prosecutors based on the abuse and rape suffered by Davis at the hands of her 13-year-old autistic son.

(New York v. Davis; New York v. Boss) MT

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