Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Let judge decide on cameras in court, congressman says

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve Chabot, who for years has sought to allow TV cameras in federal courtrooms, said the judge handling the case of an accused Sept. 11 terrorist conspirator should have the discretion to open her courtroom to cameras.

        “The American people ought to have access to the courtrooms. They pay for them,” said Mr. Chabot, R-Cincinnati, who has sponsored legislation that would give federal judges the authority to decide whether to allow cameras.

        Mr. Chabot has no opinion about whether the accused terrorist's trial should be televised. But he said federal judges should be under the same scrutiny as Congress, which granted TV access to C-SPAN over some objection.

        “Congress has survived with cameras, and I think the public is better for it,” he said.

        Judge Leonie Brinkema has scheduled a hearing today in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., on a request from Court TV to televise proceedings for the first suspect charged in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

        Zacarias Moussaoui has supported Court TV's request to televise his trial as long as the jury is sequestered and the footage is available for broadcast worldwide. Mr. Moussaoui, a French national of Moroccan descent, thinks live coverage would help ensure he receives a fair trial.

        However, federal prosecutors have opposed live coverage, saying it could influence jurors and witnesses and expose witnesses to retribution from al-Qaida or other terrorist networks.

        The Judicial Conference of the United States, the administrative arm of the federal courts, prohibits cameras in federal district courts, but gives federal appellate courts the option. Two appellate courts — the 2nd Circuit in New York and the 9th Circuit in San Francisco — permit cameras.


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