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No cameras in court for Bryant’s prelim

There will be no cameras in the courtroom for Kobe Bryant’s preliminary hearing, an Eagle County Court judge ruled Monday.

Judge Fred Gannett denied requests by print and television media outlets for permission to put cameras in his courtroom during Bryant’s Oct. 9 preliminary hearing appearance.

NBC will have a camera in the hallway outside the courtroom to record the walk to the courtroom by Bryant and everyone else who has to be in court that day.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and defense attorneys Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon filed motions requesting that Gannett ban cameras in his courtroom for the preliminary hearing.

Both cited Colorado’s Code of Judicial Conduct that they said bars cameras in court during pretrial hearings in criminal cases. They argued that a preliminary hearing is a pretrial proceeding, and cameras should not be allowed.

Judge Gannett agreed, denying media requests to televise the hearing.

That’s the way the rulings roll

“It happens sometimes,” said Jack Chestnut of NBC.

Chestnut explained that the camera in the courtroom guidelines were established by the Colorado judiciary to provide a mechanism during a public hearing by which the proceedings can be available for the public.

At this point, Chestnut said, this is still a public hearing.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the judge has made this inaccessible to the general public,” he said. “The camera is simply the eyes and ears of the public. He is simply denying a much larger segment of the public to see and hear the proceedings, and I think that’s unfortunate.”

Manny Medrano, a legal analyst for KNBC in Los Angeles as wells as a former federal prosecutor and defense attorney, said he’s disappointed but not surprised. He said it comes down to two things: the pertinent law in that state, and the propensity of the judge to allow cameras in his courtroom.

“Here the judge is ruling that he is bound by the rules,” said Medrano. “If a judge is of a mindset to allow cameras in the court, pertinent rules can be construed in such a way as to make that happen.”

Medrano said there it’s still possible for cameras to be in District Judge Tom Moorhead’s courtroom during the trial. If Gannett rules that there is sufficient evidence to bind Bryant over for trial, the case is scheduled to land in Moorhead’s court, although no official announcement has been made about who the judge would be.

As for Monday’s ruling, Medrano said he was profoundly disappointed.

“I’ve been on both sides of this, trying high profile cases and covering them,” said Medrano. “I’m always of the opinion that any effort to educate the public as to how the criminal justice works is a magnificent thing.”

A camera’s impact on the proceedings is almost universally overstated, Medrano said.

“When they created their cameras in the courtroom guidelines, most states undertook five to 10 years of study,” he said. “Almost all found that within the first two minutes, witnesses forget that there are cameras in the courtroom.”

At a glance

Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline

Canon 3. A Judge should perform the duties of his or her office impartially and diligently.

A. Adjudicative Responsibilities.

8. Judicial supervision over expanded media coverage of court proceedings. A judge may authorize expanded media coverage of court proceedings.

c. Limitations on expanded media coverage. Notwithstanding an authorization to conduct expanded media coverage of a proceeding, there shall be no:

I. Expanded media coverage of pretrial hearings in criminal cases, except advisements and arraignments.

II. Expanded media coverage of the jury.

III. Audio recording or “zoom” closeup photography of bench conferences.

IV. Audio recording or closeup photography of communications between counsel and client or between co-counsel.

V. Expanded media coverage of in camera hearings.

VI. Closeup photography of members of the jury.


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