Should Federal Trials be Televised? (FACE-OFF)
September 6, 2018
Up until 2016, photographic media coverage of criminal trials in federal courts had been prohibited under all circumstances. However, the controversial debate of cameras in halted when a new rule originated regarding this issue. This rule allows a trial to be photographed and televised only if the judge authorizes it on the basis of the safety of everyone involved in the case and evidence contributing to the betterment of the trial. This rule allows for freedom of the press, a second amendment right which drives democracy. A lack of televised trials leaves the American people in the dark.
Televising criminal trials gives people the option to stay informed on verdicts, and allows them access, which keeps society informed. While many argue that televising a criminal trial invades privacy rights of the indicted, the defendant might have committed a crime that would justify taking away their right to a private trial. For instance if the defendant committed a murder, they stripped the life and future away from someone. Losing their right to a private trial disappeared the moment they made someone’s life disappear.
Televised public trials often cover popular and nationally recognized crimes that people all over the country want to see. One of the most recent, nationally known cases was the trial of Nicholas Cruz for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. Victims and their families attended the trial as eyes all over the world watched, awaiting the final verdict. Nationally renowned trials like these prove crucial to televise.
In today’s political climate, it is no longer safe to believe everything you read. Televising trials acts as a form of indisputable proof of an outcome. Since voice recordings and other technologies offer the opportunity for alteration and distortion, the practice of showing the definitive end result to viewers denounces any rumors.
Televised trials can often be mistaken for dramatization and exploitation of the person on trial. While this is a belief many hold to be true, the job of the press is to provide the public with information. It is up to the individual to discern a criminal trial from a television show.
Despite the controversy of cameras in court, televising a trial does not compromise the integrity of the court but simply strengthens it through providing a clear picture of the end result of a trial.
The history behind recording and televising devices in courtrooms has swayed opinion for the existence of the debate, should federal court cases receive television coverage? It has been a point of controversy for almost fifty years. Currently, broadcasting appliances are allowed only in selective courtrooms. The most renowned case in which a federal trial was televised was the murder trial of ex-football star O.J. Simpson’s wife in 1995. Following this, statutes were set in place invalidating such actions. However, many courts have experimented with the practice. This is conveyed in the ruling made by the second, third, and ninth circuit courts, which allow some usage of recording devices.
Nonetheless, this anomaly should not continue. Similar to the 1965 Supreme Court ruling (Estes v. Texas) regarding the television industry the supreme court deemed that like any other industry, media has its limitations. Courtrooms determine the life, liberty, and property of those accused. The rights of television companies are not greater than those of the general public. They may attend, observe, and report on such trials. However, once televising court cases becomes normalized, the television companies may start receiving special treatment over regular citizens.
However, this is not the end of the controversy in regard to televising federal court cases. Not only is due process in peril, the case and taxpayers are also threatened by such actions. Televising cases such as O.J. Simpson’s, which happened to last 135 days, could have lasted longer because of such activity. Similar court cases, such as the trial of alleged murderer Casey Anthony, only took slightly longer than a month. Televising trials extends cases, which can cost taxpayers unnecessary expenditures.
Additionally, when cases are televised, the dignity of the case is endangered. The privacy of jurors, judges, and most importantly the defendants are no longer respected when TV- journalism enters the courtroom. Public opinion not only affects the politicians of our country, but also the jurors and judges.This is especially true in jurisdictions where judges are elected, therefore the public and the media can have influences on rulings. This removes the likelihood that the defendant has received their right to a fair trial.
Some people believe that televising court cases is a positive practice, largely because it would reinforce the first amendments freedom of the press. But the courtroom is not the place to extend such practices. The argument is outweighed by the negatives. Too many people watch television purely for entertainment and do not grasp the extent of the importance of these cases.
With increasingly more courts allowing TV-journalism within its jurisdiction, the integrity of the United States justice system will further lose its value. We must protect the rights of the accused and the decision-making of jurors and judges. Allowing for such a violation of due process can and will degrade the level of fairness and justice within the significant institution.