Terrorist suspect's trial good reason to allow cameras in courtroom

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

The public and the courts, lawyers and defendants have debated for years whether cameras should be allowed in courtrooms to provide greater access to various important trials and legal disputes. The case for televising a trial as a means of serving a larger public interest hardly could find a better example than the upcoming trial of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.

Moussaoui faces life in prison and a possible death sentence for his alleged role as a conspirator in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the cable network Court TV has asked to be able to broadcast the proceedings. That request faces the hurdle of a federal judiciary that has long banned cameras in its district courts. ...

The most often-heard criticism of televised trials is that they can create a circus atmosphere in the courtroom. O.J. Simpson's trial was shown on TV and widely regarded as an embarrassing spectacle. But that trial was allowed to get out of hand by a judge, the master of the courtroom, who refused to control participants in his court, not by journalists at the trial. ...

Showing the trial of this suspect, the first to be indicted for crimes directly associated with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, to as broad an audience as possible would serve the widest public interest. Foes of broadcast media who carefully consider this truth will drop their resistance to providing freer public access to the proceedings of the nation's criminal justice system.

-- Houston Chronicle

Jan. 11

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