Judge allows video of theater shooting trial
DENVER (AP) — News organizations will be allowed to broadcast the Colorado theater shooting trial using a closed-circuit TV camera already in the courtroom, but they won’t be allowed to have their own cameras in court, the judge said Tuesday.
Still images can be captured from the video, but still cameras will also be barred from the courtroom, Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said in a written order.
The small camera is mounted on the courtroom ceiling and will show the witness stand, a video screen where evidence will be displayed, the judge, the defense table and part of the prosecution table. Jurors will not be visible.
It was not immediately clear whether defendant James Holmes would be in the camera’s view.
Samour said the camera’s view cannot be changed without his permission.
The camera is normally used for surveillance by sheriff’s deputies and to show the proceedings in overflow rooms when needed. Audio from the camera will be available to the media, but it wasn’t immediately known where the sound is collected.
Samour also barred video and still photography in most areas inside the courthouse and limited cameras to two areas outside the courthouse.
A group of television and radio stations, a cable channel, The Denver Post and The Associated Press had asked to have one television camera and one still photographer in the courtroom.
Prosecutors and the defense objected, saying video and photo coverage could intimidate witnesses, inflict emotional damage on survivors and put images from the trial on the Internet forever, outside the court’s control.
Some victims’ family members have also publicly objected, saying video and still pictures would give Holmes unwarranted attention.
Samour said using the closed-circuit video would not affect Holmes’ right to a fair trial or disrupt the proceedings. He also said broadcasting the video would allow victims to watch the trial if they cannot be there in person.
Diego Hunt, an attorney for the broadcasters, called the order a “huge victory” despite the restrictions.
“Ultimately, the request was to gain access and public access to this important trial, so we achieved that,” he said.
He said questions remain about the quality of the video image the camera would provide.
Steve Zansberg, an attorney for the Post and AP, called the order disappointing and said the judge had in effect limited the public view to “a tiny peephole covered by a fuzzy mesh.”
“A high-quality miniaturized camera would allow the public a meaningful view of the witness’ demeanor without creating any impact on the courtroom,” Zansberg said.
Holmes is scheduled to go on trial Dec. 8 on charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack on a suburban Denver movie theater. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
DAN ELLIOTT, SADIE GURMAN
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