Why cameras in Idaho courtrooms are often shut out without explanation

As a general rule, judges have a good amount of discretion when it comes to deciding if they will allow cameras in court.

If you are one of our North Idaho viewers, you may have noticed something about how we cover court cases there. Sometimes judges allow cameras in the courtrooms, sometimes they do not.

As a general rule, judges have a good amount of discretion when it comes to deciding if they will allow cameras in court. We have noticed in North Idaho judges will often deny our camera requests without giving a reason.

KREM 2 sees that as a transparency issue in the legal process. We set out to find why cameras in Idaho courtrooms are often shut out without explanation.

University of Idaho instructor Shaakirrah Sanders said judges have a lot of discretion when it comes to cameras.

“In general… the judge is kind of the captain of the courtroom,” explained Sanders.

Sanders also pointed out that this general rule can be applied nationwide, not just in Idaho. Sanders said most states do not have rules relating to cameras. What is essentially comes down to is trying to strike a balance between two things.

The first amendment outlining the right of the press and the sixth amendment outlining the right to a fair trial.

“It’s kind of a hodgepodge of laws that say ‘if there’s some type of fear of concern that a defendant’s right to a fair trial will be implicated or violated by publicity at the trial, then the judge has discretion to put limits on photography, cameras, recordings,” explained Sanders.

Sanders said there is always a fear in law that too much coverage could taint a potential jury pool.

There is another factor to consider. Too many cameras and shutter clicks in a courtroom could be annoying.

“But the recordings and the video cameras, I think a lot of judges see it as a distraction,” said Sanders.

In the end, even if reporters cannot have cameras in the courtroom, we will still cover the case. Stories will just be without images.

Note: KREM 2 did reach out to Judge Scott Wayman, but he declined to comment. 

© 2017 KREM-TV


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