Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Padilla trial day 2

Lots of good Jose Padilla coverage from opening statements yesterday.

But what caught my eye was this reporter's comments about the rules for press coverage:

But court security officers are enforcing an unusual rule for the trial, which is set to get under way with opening statements Monday. They are prepared to prevent members of the media from asking questions of defense lawyers or federal prosecutors at the trial.
In effect, newspaper, radio, and television reporters are being granted observer status – they may sit quietly, watch the trial, and take notes. But if during a court recess they approach a defense lawyer or prosecutor in the courtroom with a question, they risk being whisked away by security officials.
The ban on media questions also extends to the lobby outside US District Judge Marcia Cooke's courtroom and chambers.
If reporters need to ask questions for clarification or routine housekeeping matters during the trial, they must ask their questions somewhere else.

The reporter, Warren Richey, for Christian Science Monitor, then explains what happened to him:

I learned about this rule the hard way. During a recent five-minute recess during jury selection, I approached one of the prosecutors and asked who at the US Attorney's Office was handling questions from the press.
He gave me the name of a spokesperson and a telephone number. When I lifted my notebook to jot these down, a court security officer confronted me. He accused me of conducting an interview and asked me to step out of the courtroom.
I told him that I'd merely asked a question, but added that I'd never heard of a rule barring news reporters from asking questions, or even from conducting brief interviews in a courtroom at a public trial at a time when both the judge and jury were not in the courtroom.
Having covered scores of hearings and trials in the federal courts as a journalist, I am well acquainted with courtroom etiquette. But I have never heard of courtroom officials barring reporters from asking routine questions.

Other reporters spoke with Richey:

Neither has Associated Press correspondent Curt Anderson, who has covered the Padilla case closer than any other reporter. "I don't know of such a rule," he said in an e-mail. "I haven't had any problem talking with the various lawyers anywhere in the courthouse or outside, even in the courtroom itself during breaks."
Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald also says he is unaware of such a rule against journalist questions. "I would like to know what the ground rules are. It is going to come up," he says.

It will be interesting to see exactly what this rule is and how it's enforced. I'm all for protecting the rights of the defendant, and being especially careful in a trial like this is important. That said, the public has a right to see and understand this trial. I really believe we should have cameras in federal court. The Padilla trial should be watched in classrooms and studied. Instead, our country is left with images of OJ as how our justice system works.


Anonymous said...

you vill not ask qvestions of the attorneys ya? Ve vill confiscate yovr books and records, then beat you with a bamboo stick

Anonymous said...

Having Camera's in the Courtroom is positive and serves a valuable function. I have never found cameras to impact the lawyers, judges or jurors. In a case such as this it would be very helpful because people can actually see how the process unfolds. Additionally, even for those of us in Miami, there just aren't enough seats in the courtroom. Trials have always served as part public spectacle, and in today's age it is ludicrous to continue to keep cameras out of eth Federal Courts.