Attorneys oppose court camera
Either millions or dozens will see Kobe Bryant’s rape trial, depending on what a judge rules.During Monday’s pretrial hearing, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle entertained arguments about a Court TV request to put two cameras in the courtroom during Bryant’s trial next month, which begins Aug. 27.But a less-than remarkable thing happened on the way to TV land. Bryant’s defense attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, agreed with District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and the alleged victim’s attorney, John Clune: They all hate the idea.”It’s not about the media, it’s about the victim. She’s hurt, she’s scared,” said Hurlbert. “It’s also about the defendant, who faces up to life in prison.”
Hurlbert said the case has all the elements of a reality television show, even suggesting a name, “Survivor Eagle County.””Sex, violence, lies, a national celebrity. All you need is a camera to turn this into reality TV,” said Hurlbert.Court TV attorney Richard Holmes proposed a two camera setup: one on the side of the courtroom and a tiny camera, a “lipstick camera,” at the front of the courtroom pointed toward the crowd to get audience and attorney reaction. The broadcasts would operate on a one-hour delay, which Holmes said would provide producers enough time to delete the alleged victim’s name. He also said they would not show her or the jury on camera.Holmes made no such promise about Bryant, should he be called to testify.Haddon called that a “not very subtle double standard,” and said it goes to the heart of Bryant’s ability to get a fair trial and equal treatment.”I don’t hear any suggestion that Mr. Bryant’s image be blurred or his name deleted,” said Haddon.Clune and Hurlbert said that with the death threats that surround the case, the witnesses’ safety is also a concern. Hurlbert said no accommodations are made to protect other witnesses, which he said makes them vulnerable to death threats and possible attack.Two men are in jail for threatening to kill the alleged victim. Clune said two other prosecution witnesses have also received death threats.Haddon said the defense side has also received death threats.Attorneys said that besides safety, cameras in the courtroom raise the question of how they might affect witnesses’ testimony and possible grandstanding, as well as Bryant and the alleged victim’s right to a fair trial.”It’s up to the proponents to show that there will be no adverse effect,” Haddon said during his arguments. “If there is adverse effect, it simply should not be allowed.”
Court TV’s Holmes argued that cameras in the courtroom often create a greater public acceptance of verdicts. He cited the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in which Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass, had to testify, as well as two other cases involving fatal shootings of minorities by Miami police. Riots ensued after the non-televised trial, but none after the televised trial – although Holmes was quick to deny that Court TV had much to do with that.Haddon countered that the purpose of court is not to inform or entertain.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.