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Chief Judge: Cameras Likely In Cook County Courts By Year’s End

Timothy Evans

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (AP) – Cook County’s chief judge says his court system should be ready to introduce cameras in courtrooms by the end of the year, although Illinois Supreme Court officials say there’s no specific timetable for putting them in place.

Judge Timothy Evans spoke to Chicago-area media Tuesday during a briefing about a Supreme Court pilot project that’s allowing cameras in Illinois courts for the first time. Evans embraced the idea of cameras in Cook County courts, one of the largest court systems in the world, soon after the project was announced in January by Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride.

Evans, who applied to have the county be part of the program, said Tuesday that the high court has deferred the application while officials watch how the experiment plays out in 13 other counties where cameras already are allowed.

“I would say that certainly by the end of this year we would be ready,” Evans said. “I’m convinced it would work here as easily as it has worked in other places around Illinois.”

Before proceeding, Supreme Court officials and some circuit judges are interested in seeing how cameras work in a high-profile case with lots of media attention. They plan to keep a close eye on the upcoming trial of Nicholas Sheley, who has been accused of eight murders in Illinois and Missouri. His next trial is scheduled for September in Whiteside County, where cameras have been approved.

“We haven’t had that,” said Supreme Court spokesman Joseph Tybor. “Chief justices that would apply are waiting to see that.”

According to the Supreme Court plan, individual trial judges can decide whether to allow cameras in their courtrooms. Some have resisted.

Evans said he plans to offer training to Cook County judges and provide for them to see how the system works in other states. He said he could reassign judges who refuse to allow cameras, not wanting to prevent the public from seeing inside the court process because of the “recalcitrance” of a judge.

Illinois is among only about a dozen states that still bar cameras in courtrooms.

The Cook County Circuit Court has more than 400 judges who serve more than 5 million people in Chicago and its 126 suburbs. It is the largest of Illinois’ judicial circuits and court officials say it is one of the largest unified court systems in the world.

Tybor said the court will review DuPage County’s application for cameras next and that Kane County has also indicated it will apply.

In addition to Whiteside, the counties that already have been approved for cameras are Boone, Winnebago, Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Madison, Kankakee, Henry, Mercer and Rock Island.

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