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Still cameras allowed, but camera ban not unconstitutional

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Still cameras allowed, but camera ban not unconstitutional

  • News organizations seeking access to an upcoming murder trial claimed that a state ban on cameras in courtrooms did not apply to still cameras.

Feb. 18, 2003 — Erie County Judge Michael L. D’Amico ruled Feb.10 that still camera coverage will be permitted in the courtroom during the murder trial of James Kopp, scheduled for Feb. 24.

D’Amico ruled that a state law prohibiting cameras from trial courtrooms is not unconstitutional, but that it does not apply to still cameras. According to D’Amico’s ruling, it is up to the judge to determine whether or not still photography should be allowed in the courtroom.

When media organizations were denied requests for camera coverage of the trial in early December, The Buffalo News, a Buffalo CBS-affiliated television station, an NBC-affiliated station and an independent television station Dec. 13 filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the statute either did not apply to still photographic coverage or is unconstitutional, according to a Jan. 24 statement from the newspaper.

According to a report in the New York Law Journal, D’Amico said that a decision on the constitutionality of the statute should be made by the New York Court of Appeals; however, he also noted that no appellate court has ever determined that a camera prohibition in courtrooms is unconstitutional.

The Erie County district attorney had supported requests made by the media for camera coverage of Kopp’s trial, while the U.S. attorney objected. The lead defense attorney encouraged the court to permit a single televison camera to record the trial without filming any of the jurors, but objected to any type of still photography.

Kopp, an anti-abortion activist, faces both federal and state charges in the October 1998 murder of Amherst abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian.

(New York v. Kopp; Media counsel: Joseph M. Finnerty, Stenger &Finnerty, Buffalo, N.Y. for The Buffalo News; Mark Molloy, Nixon Peabody, Buffalo, N.Y. for Gannett; Paul Perlman, Hodgson Russ, Buffalo, N.Y. for Lin Television) PC

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