Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cameras in ctrooms encroach on Chgo

They’re not quite within the city limits. Not yet, anyway.

But it’s just a matter of time now before those among us who gather their news by relying on the resources of local television (whether you watch the actual newscast, or just watch video snippets off of a website after-the-fact) will be able to see real live moving pictures of what happened at the Criminal Courts building or other courthouses scattered across Cook County.

FOR THE PAST year, the Supreme Court of Illinois has been experimenting with the idea of permitting video to be shot of court activity so that it could be used on local newscasts.

This experiment is being done judicial circuit by judicial circuit, and has started in the rural parts of Illinois. It would seem they want to see how it works in the smaller court systems of the state, before unleashing the idea on the bureaucratic mess that is the courts in Cook County.

Thus far, five judicial circuits in 13 counties have been trying the concept of shooting video of their court activity. On Monday, court officials added the 18th Circuit to the list.

That circuit includes the far western suburbs of DuPage County. Which invariably means that the DuPage County court system is going to get extra-heavy television coverage in coming months – all because pictures will be available to go with the reporter’s observations.

IT’S THE REALITY of television news – things that really don’t mean all that much get covered if there is video depicting the “moment of truth.” And if the video is particularly clear, the “story” will get major play on the newscast.

Eventually, the “fad” nature of courtroom video will phase out the idea of feeling the need to cover this stuff – particularly when this concept gets to all 102 counties of Illinois.

Including our very own Cook! Supreme Court officials have said more circuits will be added by the end of 2012, and Cook County Chief Justice Timothy Evans has told reporter-types that he’d like to see the program expand into Chicago by that date as well.

Although I get the sense that Cook County officials may start the concept locally in the suburban courthouses – giving us audio and video of court activity from places like Markham, Skokie and the Maybrook district in Maywood.

IT MAY TURN out that the last place we get to see anything from is the Criminal Courts building out near the Little Village neighborhood.

Although I can’t help but think that the public is going to be disappointed by the sight of real, live courthouse activity on television.

For they are going to learn just how buried in minutia and legalese much of what happens in a courtroom really is. They’re going to learn how important the reporter-type person is in terms of being able to explain what a certain legal motion meant.

It’s going to come across like a foreign language, and we’re in need of an interpreter. It’s definitely not a place conducive to visual-looking stories, no matter what some people might believe after watching too many episodes of “Judge Judy” or some true-crime drama program on television.

AND A PART of that is because of the oppressive atmosphere of most courtrooms. Whether they’re decades old, or date back to a more recent era, most of them are intended to be intimidating places with a deadly-dull look to them.

Anybody who thinks that such video will create a constant flow of “Drew Peterson”-type stories to watch every night is going to be in for a shock.

The true “feel” for a courtroom is sitting in a seat with torn upholstery with a sheriff’s deputy watching you like a hawk for any signs you’re going to act up (so he can eject you from the courtroom) and an aroma caused from decades of bad food, certain individuals who might not have bothered to bathe properly and poor air circulation in the in buildings.

The true feel is something that cannot be captured on video. You have to be there – although court is the last place that any decent human being wants to have to be in.


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