Cameras in the Courts in Criminal Cases?
Washington, DC (February 28, 1996) -- Persons accused of crime must have the final say over whether their trials are televised, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' (NACDL) board of directors voted this week, on a question that has split criminal defense lawyers into two camps since "cameras in the courts" became a practical reality over a decade ago.
"The paramount consideration must be what is fair and just for the accused," said NACDL President Robert Fogelnest, summarizing the result of the board's debate of the issue at its Midwinter Meeting in Miami. "While most of us agree that cameras in the courtroom can serve positive purposes in educating the American public and preventing abuses of the judicial process, the first and most fundamental consideration in a criminal case must be the rights of the accused to a fair trial."
COURT-TV anchor and former criminal defense lawyer Rikki J. Klieman argued that cameras should be permitted in all trials. "The public scrutiny the cameras afford is extremely helpful in keeping trials fair to all parties," Klieman told the board during the debate.
But prominent New York criminal defense lawyer and NACDL board member Jack T. Litman staunchly opposed televising criminal trials without the consent of the accused. Litman noted that "the perceived value of cameras in the courts is far outweighed by their interference with our clients' fair trial rights, the fragility of a system of justice at risk of being swept away in the tide of entertainment and ratings, and the indelible stain on our clients' reputations."
NACDL's board agreed that televising trials educates citizens and, more importantly, ensures public scrutiny of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and the justice process. But in adopting its policy resolution on the issue, the board insisted that the overriding consideration is ensuring a fair trial and due process for persons accused of crime. In the end, criminal defendants must have the final word on whether cameras in the courtroom would interfere with their constitutional protections during trial.
35 states allow televising of criminal trials, but only two (Alabama and Oklahoma) currently give the accused a right to reject coverage. Cameras are still prohibited from federal trials -- a ban that many criminal defense lawyers find frustrating, because the need for openness and public scrutiny is not acknowledged at all.
Litman is the author of a sharp dissent from the recommendations of a special committee of the New York Bar Association that cameras be permitted in courts. The only criminal defense practitioner appointed to the New York committee, his dissent argues that the committee's recommendation was pre-ordained rather than the result of responsible study of the issue.
Following the decision of NACDL's board, Association President Fogelnest also appointed a committee, headed by board member and prominent New York criminal defense attorney Barry Scheck, to develop guidelines for use by lawyers and journalists in analyzing or commenting on televised trials in a manner that fosters public education about the importance of the American jury system and the presumption of innocence for persons accused.
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.