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Supreme court approves ABC's coverage of criminal trials

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         COLORADO         Broadcasting         Dec 17, 2002    

Supreme court approves ABC’s coverage of criminal trials

  • ABC’s “State v.,” which airs footage from criminal trials at every stage, will be produced in Colorado following changes in court rules and the blessings of the state’s Supreme Court.

ABC news has started reviewing cases for a Colorado version of “State v.,” a complete look at the criminal justice system in the courts that includes cameras at every stage, even jury deliberation.

According to Karan Salaz, a spokeswoman for the state court administrator’s office in Denver, the seven state Supreme Court justices reviewed the network’s filming of “State v.” in Phoenix last summer and decided a similar educational project in Colorado would serve public interest.

A program would air only after a decision has been reached in each case.

Few people know much about the court system until they are involved in it, Salaz said. The programs, which show how there are consequences in the courts for crimes and how jurors look at actions, could act as a deterrent, Salaz said, particularly for young people.

She also said that the justices hope that airing deliberations will encourage future jurors to accept jury duty without fearing the proceedings. Colorado courts are concerned about juror reform, she said.

The justices altered rules covering cameras in courts Oct. 9, allowing ABC to film proceedings. The rules contain safeguards that allow any participant to veto coverage at any time.

Not only the parties to a case but judges and jurors have the right to stop coverage at any point if they feel that it jeopardizes the trial in any way. In Phoenix, ABC filmed nearly 200 cases and ultimately used only five in its programming. Jurors stopped the filming of one case after the trial had been videotaped, but before deliberations began.

ABC limited its request for coverage in Colorado to the Denver metropolitan area. The justices arranged for local meetings between ABC staff, public defenders, district attorneys, and chief judges to discuss concerns. Salaz said that the only group that has hesitated has been the public defenders, who say they still have concerns about the measure.

She also said that the producers are not looking for high-profile or violent cases but for cases where deliberation and discussion is likely.


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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