UPDATED 01/24/12 6:06 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time in Illinois history, cameras will be allowed in circuit courtrooms.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Illinois Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor says the court is set to announce a policy Tuesday that will allow cameras in courtrooms on a trial basis.
With the new policy in place, people who want to see what happens inside the state’s 23 circuit courts will now have a chance to do so from the comfort of their own living rooms.
Cameras have been allowed previously to record proceedings in the state Supreme and Appellate courts.
That was how live video was made available from the Appellate Court in Ottawa, where last year, an appeal was heard in connection with the hearsay ruling in the Drew Peterson case.
Now, if the pilot program is successful, the public will likely have a chance to sit in electronically on the entire Peterson murder trial. The trial on charges against Peterson in the alleged murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, may take place as soon as later this year.
The case against murder suspect William Balfour may also potentially be videotaped.
Balfour, 30, is charged with killing three members of singer Jennifer Hudson’s family – her mother, Darnell Donerson; her brother, Jason Hudson; and Julian King, the 7-year-old son of Hudson’s sister – in October 2008.
The Illinois News Broadcasters Association says it has been pushing to allow cameras and audio recordings into the state’s courtrooms for decades.
Association president Jennifer Fuller says judges have been clearly resistant in the past.
“They’ve been worried that it might have a chilling effect on witnesses,” Fuller said. “There were some concerns that some people who had already been victimized might be victimized again.”
But with the Supreme Court now opening the door to cameras in courtrooms, Fuller says it’s a victory for the First Amendment.
“We want to make open government truly open,” she said.
From a legal perspective, the Better Government Association says allowing citizens to see judges in action could help them make more informed decisions when it’s time to elect judges to the bench.
Illinois is one 14 states that currently does not allow cameras during criminal trials.
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