Debate Over Televising Federal Courtrooms
The federal court in Boston has been teaming with reporters over the last few months, primarily to cover the trial of alleged mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. With so much public interest in these cases, debate has renewed about whether federal courtrooms should allow video cameras to record the proceedings, or even broadcast trials live.
The news coverage relies on reporters in the courthouse to relay what happened, including expressions on defendants’ faces or the tone of witnesses’ voices. At Tsarnaev’s hearing, for example, the Boston Globe said his jumpsuit was large, making “him appear younger than his 19 years.” ABC News noted that he “appeared to smirk” while Fox News said he “smiled crookedly” and WCVB reported that he gave a “small, lopsided smile.”
Opponents have said televising trials could lead to grandstanding and endanger witnesses and victims in some cases. Supporters argue that increased transparency can create more of an understanding for and appreciation of the judicial process, as well as less reliance on a reporter’s interpretation of the courtroom atmosphere.
David Olson, professor at Boston College Law School. He used to be a patent litigator at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
United States Courts: A history of cameras in the federal courts.
SCOTUS Blog: Senators try again for cameras in the courtroom.
Boston Herald Opinion: Federal courtroom camera ban defies logic.
Washington Post Opinion: Take cameras out of the courtroom.
Boston Globe Opinion: Not far enough on cameras in courtroom.
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