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Judge bars cameras from Jackson's arraignment

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Judge bars cameras from Jackson’s arraignment

  • Judge Rodney S. Melville, citing a need to maintain his court’s ‘dignity,’ has barred still and broadcast cameras from singer Michael Jackson’s Jan. 16 arraignment.

Jan. 13, 2004 — All cameras will be banned from singer Michael Jackson’s Jan. 16 arraignment on child molestation charges, Judge Rodney S. Melville of Santa Barbara Superior Court ruled yesterday.

Melville said cameras will not be allowed in court because of the vast number of media groups interested in the case. He cited “the privacy rights of all participants,” “preserving the security and dignity of the court” and the “importance of maintaining public trust and confidence in the judicial system” as the primary reasons for his decision.

Several news outlets from around the world had sought to televise and photograph Jackson’s arraignment, including news organizations in Britain, Japan, Denmark and Germany, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

California permits cameras in its courtrooms, but at the discretion of the judge and only upon request at least five days before the proceedings.

Ken Paulson, executive director of The First Amendment Center, located in Nashville, Tenn., said while it is common for courts to shield the identity of minors in sex-related cases, cameras are not the reason that trials lose their integrity.

“The fact that they are protecting the victim is no surprise,” Paulson said. “But there is unlikely to be a negative impact on justice because of the cameras.

“There is always the fear that lawyers will play to the cameras, but the attorneys in this case already have,” he added. “It is ridiculous to suggest that keeping cameras out of this courtroom would restore dignity and solemnity to this trial.”

Jackson’s arraignment will be open to the public. The court seats 120, of which half will be reserved for media. Melville said close-circuit TV coverage will also be available in an overflow room at the courthouse.

(California v. Jackson; Media Counsel: Theodore Boutrous Jr., Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Los Angeles) LH

© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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