Media back in court for access to second Clinton videotape
ARKANSAS–In mid-July, a coalition of media groups petitioned a federal District Court in Little Rock for immediate access to a second videotape of testimony by President Clinton in a criminal case. Clinton’s deposition, taped in early July, is part of the banking fraud trial of Arkansas bankers Herby Branscum Jr. and Robert Hill.
The coalition, which includes the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, television networks and others, argued that the media and public are entitled to access to the tape under First Amendment- based rights of access to criminal proceedings. In addition, they stated that the public has a vital interest in knowing what takes place in the courts, which requires access to copies of judicial documents presented as evidence in open court.
Attorneys representing the President in both his personal and official capacities responded to the application for access to the video in late July, arguing that the public’s right to access should be denied because “the common law right of access should not be a tool for unscrupulous marketers to line their pockets — particularly by distorting public documents.” They also insisted that the video “will be distorted for partisan purposes and exploited for commercial gain.”
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr uncovered the alleged wrongdoings by Branscum and Hill during the Whitewater fraud and conspiracy investigation.
In mid-June, a different trial court judge in the same district court permanently denied access to the Clinton videotaped testimony submitted to open court in another Whitewater-related trial of two of the president’s former business associates. That decision is currently under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis (8th Cir.). (U.S. v. Branscum and Hill; Media Counsel: Philip S. Anderson, Little Rock)