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Witness watching televised proceedings prompts mistrial

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Witness watching televised proceedings prompts mistrial 08/11/97 GEORGIA--A Superior Court judge in Decatur granted a defense motion for a mistrial…

Witness watching televised proceedings prompts mistrial

08/11/97

GEORGIA–A Superior Court judge in Decatur granted a defense motion for a mistrial in late July after one witness saw another key witness’s testimony on Court TV.

Tracy Rhames, who has spent 20 years trying to prove her father, Jan Barry Sandlin, killed her two-year-old brother, admitted in court that she disobeyed the judge’s order and watched her mother’s testimony on Court TV.

Judge Hilton Fuller dismissed the case, but rejected the defense attorney’s sentiments that cameras in the courtroom are a “danger” to the judicial process.

“It was too much to expect this young woman to … ignore her mother’s testimony,” he said. “How many of us could have resisted the temptation?”

Fuller allowed a pool television camera to provide tapes to television stations and other services like Court TV, but prohibited the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pool photographer from taking pictures of witnesses because the shutter noise was distracting.

State rules governing superior courts provide that the right to broadcast, record or photograph a trial “shall be granted without partiality or preference to any person, news agency or type of electronic or photographic coverage,” but they also give judges discretion to ban equipment they consider distracting.

Prosecutors said they will refile murder charges against Sandlin. (Georgia v. Sandlin)