Chief Justice Approves "Experiment"
5:57 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Cameras & Microphones in Illinois Trial Courtrooms

The Illinois Supreme Court said it will allow cameras into trial courtrooms.

Illinois was in the minority of states in not allowing broadcast media to cover trials.

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride said Illinois media outlets will have to follow several pages of rules. Even then, there is no guarantee the technology will be allowed for all trials. The state's 23 circuit courts can decide if they want to allow cameras and microphones.

"This experiment has got to be done on a voluntary basis," Kilbride said. "If people are going to object, the trial judge will probably say 'No.' It's got to be a consensual kind of thing."

Robert Loeb, who is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago and an instructor at DePaul's law school, said that on balance it will be good to have cameras in the courtroom

But he worried that selective use of trial clips in newscasts could be a problem for the accused.

"Let's assume that I've got an innocent client, and let's assume that he gets found not guilty. The infamy that comes from the coverage of a criminal trial is not going to help that person's life," Loeb said.

The chief judge in Cook County said he supports cameras in the courtroom and intends to apply to be part of the program.

But others are more hesitant.  The Chief Judges of the circuit courts based in Piatt County and Madison County each said they need to discuss the matter with colleagues first.

Iowa has allowed cameras in its courtrooms since 1979.   Neighboring Missouri allows it too, as does Wisconsin.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio