Simpson trial renews debate over cameras; Reno shows support
CALIFORNIA–In the aftermath of the case of California v. O.J. Simpson, the debate over whether courtroom proceedings should be televised has prompted a number of courts to bar cameras from trials. However, advocates of cameras in the court, including U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, argue that cameras “give people the opportunity to see justice in action.”
“If we can use cameras in the courtroom in a fair way that covers the cross-section of the criminal justice system, I think they can be invaluable in ensuring the accountability of the system, ensuring defendant’s rights, and giving people public confidence,” Reno said in a late September Justice Department briefing.
When asked about the Simpson trial’s adverse impact on cameras in the court, Reno said, “I’m sure that people will express concerns in that regard, but I think it [cameras in court] is so important. The potential that television has for properly informing the people, for educating our children, is so great.”
Critics claim that the presence of cameras in the O.J. Simpson trial contributed to the circus atmosphere and interminable length of the proceedings, and cite the crisp, two-week-long affair of the Susan Smith trial as an example of what occurs when cameras are barred from the court, the Associated Press reported.
Cameras will not be allowed in the trial of Yolanda Saldivar, accused of murdering Latino singer Selena. Nor will they be permitted in the trial of Richard Allen Davis, accused of kidnapping and killing 12-year-old Polly Klaas in Northern California. According to the Associated Press, in each case, either a judge, prosecutor, or defense lawyer, cited the televised coverage of the Simpson trial as a reason to ban the cameras from the courtroom.
South Dakota State Bar officials acknowledge that the Simpson trial has all but killed any chance for cameras in that state’s courtrooms. South Dakota is one of three states, along with Indiana and Mississippi, which completely bar camera coverage of court proceedings.