A pilot project allowing cameras in some criminal court hearings has begun in Minnesota district courts.
The project that began Nov. 10 is limited to hearings after a defendant is convicted in certain types of cases. Cameras aren’t allowed when a jury is present, and they’re excluded from juvenile proceedings or those involving domestic violence or sex crimes. They also aren’t allowed in specialized courts for drug, mental health, veteran and DWI cases.
The project expands a similar one that allowed cameras at civil case hearings.
The Minnesota Supreme Court decided in August to allow expanded access of media camera and audio recordings of criminal proceedings as part of a pilot project. Formerly, all parties to a case had to consent before recordings were allowed, leading to few cases where cameras were permitted.
Under the expanded pilot program, victims testifying as part of sentencing or other post-verdict proceedings must give consent to be recorded.
News organizations and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information have tried for years to get cameras and other devices into courtrooms by loosening a 1974 prohibition. Supreme Court justices said in their order that they were trying to address concerns of intrusive or prejudicial coverage while bringing about confidence in the judicial system’s fairness.
After the two-year pilot allowed cameras in certain civil proceedings, The Minnesota Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on General Rules of Practice reported, among its conclusions:
“The committee is not aware of any problems or complaints caused by the use of cameras or audio recording equipment in court proceedings during the pilot period.
“Coverage of the proceedings has not, to the committee’s knowledge, generated any known prejudice to any of the parties.”
MNCOGI believes that further opening Minnesota courts to audio and video coverage will foster community understanding and present citizens with a positive experience of what goes on in their courtrooms.
MNCOGI will post on its website links to news reports that include camera coverage of court proceedings.
These are some of the reports: