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Will Cook County Courtrooms Feature Cameras?

April 29th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

courtroom camera, Cook County courtrooms, justice system, courtroom camera in Cook CountyThe Cook County court system has been experiencing its fair share of problems lately. The latest issue facing Chief Judge Timothy Evans involves awaiting the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision on his request to allow the presence of cameras in the County’s courtrooms. He made that request over two years ago, and the Supreme Court has yet to provide its answer to his application.

Cook County Stands Alone

Cook County’s is the only application that the state’s high court has not approved among the counties who have applied for the permission. Cook County’s application was filed in January 2012, only a few days after the Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed audio and video recordings in courtrooms in certain circumstances.

While Cook County’s application has been pending, several cases were tried in the county that attracted public interest and probably would have produced requests for courtroom cameras. Such cases ranged from murder charges to alleged acts of terrorism.

Why has the Application not been Approved?

The Illinois Supreme Court has said it still needs to work out some issues with approving Cook County’s application as to how the program would function in the largest county in the state. The Court needs to decide whether cameras would be limited to one courtroom, a specific courthouse, or only used in criminal cases. A timetable has not been identified for the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision, but the Court intends to have a decision sooner rather than later.

Some of the Court’s reservation in making a decision may be attributable to the fact that not everyone in Cook County is on board with the application. Both the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office have concerns about the potential impact the cameras may have on testimony from victims and witnesses, especially those who fear they may be in danger because of their cooperation. In addition, there is the concern that allowing cameras will do nothing to help the public gain a better understanding of how the justice system works, but will give in to the media’s publicizing of scandalous cases.

While they realize that it is more than likely that cameras will eventually be allowed, they are hopeful that their concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Other counties’ circuit court judges who are participating in the program have approved every request from news outlets to have cameras at hearings, but judges who handle individual cases have later rejected the requests. The trial judges have the final say when making a decision regarding cameras in their courtrooms, and their decisions cannot be appealed.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether cameras will be allowed in Cook County courtrooms and under what circumstances remains to be seen. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is important to take steps to preserve your rights. You first step should be consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation if you are facing criminal charges in Cook County.

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