The Use of Videotapes and Cameras in the Courtroom and the Jury Deliberation Room

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The Use of Videotapes and Cameras in the Courtroom  and the Jury Deliberation Room

The issue of the use of the video equipment is the subject of numerous debates among judges, lawyers, prosecutors, human rights activists and other specialists working in the field of law and justice. Some of them support this idea, claiming that this is a significant step towards the progress, and their opponents on the other hand say that such “innovations” must be strongly prohibited, since they can negatively affect the defendant’s honor and dignity. Both opposing camps are still zealously arguing about that and use different facts proving that their point of view is the only right one.

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In the TV program called “Frontline” (2003), its anchorman Jeffrey Toobin, who is a former judge from Texas, suggested that if the cameras are used during a certain judicial sitting and everyone has a free access to it, it gets much better. He supported his words by a fact that cameras in such case would work like a sunlight which will shed light on the truth adding that “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”. Tucker Carlson – another participant of the debates answered that cameras change the behavior of the participants of the process making them more fair, noble and just. But Catherine Crier, who as well as all the participants of the CNN debates is also a judge, countered them saying another very important moment, which actually comes out of her opponents’ own arguments about the usefulness of the unlimited access to the judicial process by everyone. She said that the usage of video equipment together with free access of all the people in the state may drive to such a negative final as the pressure on the judges and prosecutors in case if people would be dissatisfied with the decision of the Court. As Crier added, it can drive to such a final as changing the decision from right to the wrong under the pressure of the public, which in its turn can cause the sentence of the defendant to the inadequate punshment or even set a really guilty person free or other way round to punish the one who is really not guilty, since the public in most cases does not own the entire information and is driven not by the law and common sense but by emotions. So, as we see, looking through the debates of the competent specialists of that field, they are all right in some way, which makes this question even more complicated.. Paul Janensch (2003) quoting the prosecutor of Texas highlights another negative factor – the jurors’members behavior can also change in a negative way by grandstanding or withholding their true points of view because of camera shooting all the process. It is not hard to understand that such things can cause the unfair final decision which will terribly brake the basic human rights of the defendant, which is absolutely unacceptable in any respectful and civilized society, especially in the American one, that is presenting the democracy to the entire world.

Justin Taylor (2013) in his article says that on the one hand the First Ammendment allows the “freedom of speech as well as the freedom of the press” and that “the public would be educated on the work of criminal justice system”, but on the other hand it states that broadcasting the real judicial processes can cause one rather bad outcome: due to many TV shows such as Judge Judy Show, Judge Brown Show or Divorce Court, an average American citizen has already got an incorrect understanding of how the USA judicial system works, supposing that all those fake cases shown in the entertainment programs mentioned above are absolutely real ones, which in its turn will drive to misunderstanding of the general public where the real process is and where is the lime process. This can even lead to the false feeling that the government and the state system of law and justice cheat them, which will obviously cause both mass dissatisfaction and also a strong mistrust towards the state judiciary. And such negative trend can even cause a mass depression with even worse outcomes.

Fredric I. Lederer (2002) in his research of the topic of the usage of video cameras in the courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms came to the conclusion that first of all the strict system of policies must implemented for each state a, which must contain all necessary limitations and rules of using the videotapes and cameras in the courtrooms. Moreover all of them must be written in accordance with the state laws and the U.S. Constitution in order not to violate the law or the human rights. He also mentioned in his work that this is a very complicated issue which will need maybe even several years of hard work and painstaking research until the correct decision will be made.

Richard J. O’Brien et al. (2008) studying this topic say that some states in the USA such as Oregon, Idaho, California, Montana, Arizona and some others allow the usage of video equipment during the judicial processes, while in the others such as Illinois and the lion’s share of the other states of the U.S. the use of video cameras and microphones in the courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms is banned. O’Brien et al. (2008) also show the fact that federal and state courts always treated especially negatively towards the use of any recording equipment during the processes because of the high probability of the fact that cameras would seriously trivialize the judiciary, and so the federal trials which took place in 1946 and later in 1972 prohibited the use of cameras during the federal criminal trials.

In conclusion we can see that despite all the pluses which we can get by using cameras in the courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms, this practice is really not so good as it seems to be, since the drawbacks, which it has can lead to rather negative results and actually even emphasizes all the advantages.

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