State legislatures in Maryland and Texas are battling over bills concerning camera access to criminal court proceedings. The Maryland proposal to repeal a ban on cameras in criminal cases has drawn fire from an organized group of prosecutors and defense attorneys, while the Texas measure seeks to impose a ban on camera access unless consent of all participants is obtained.
Maryland state’s attorneys joined trial lawyers and public defenders in late February to oppose a bill that would repeal the state’s ban on cameras and recorders in criminal cases, the Associated Press reported.
News media representatives proposed the bill, which is sponsored by Delegate Gilbert Genn (D-Montgomery), and argued that other states permitting television coverage have seen positive results. Maryland State Bar Association representatives and a number of state judges testified before the Judiciary Committee in favor of the bill.
Prosecutors, however, told the committee the cameras would deter witnesses from coming forward, especially in domestic violence cases, for fear of being shown on television.
The bill allows judges to prevent coverage of witnesses who fear retaliation or who would be embarrassed by having their testimony broadcast.
In Texas, Sen. Don Henderson (R-Houston), at the urging of Harris County District Attorney Johnny Holmes Jr., introduced a bill that would limit cameras in courtrooms, the AP reported.
If passed, the bill would prohibit the videotaping, photographing or recording of criminal court proceedings without permission from the prosecutor, the defendant and all witnesses. It mirrors the state’s current policy in civil matters.
In late January, the Texas State Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, the state’s highest court for criminal proceedings, refused to hear an appeal brought by Holmes challenging a district judge’s decision to televise proceedings over the objections of the district attorney.
(Texas S.B. 578, Md. H.B. 609)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.