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Judges in central Illinois want cameras in courts

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 2:32 p.m. CDT

PEORIA – Cameras and live blogging by journalists soon could be coming to central Illinois courtrooms if a plan by circuit judges gets the OK from the state's Supreme Court.

The (Peoria) Journal-Star reported that a majority of 10th Judicial Circuit judges on Tuesday approved the proposal, which could take months for the high court to vet. The circuit includes Peoria, Putnam, Marshall, Stark and Tazewell counties.

Judges still would have discretion on whether to allow cameras. The rules would also include a prohibition on cameras at trials whenever juveniles or sexual-assault charges are involved.

Widening electronic access to state courts is part of a pilot project launched early last year by the high court's then-chief judge, Thomas Kilbride. His successor, Rita Garman, has said she enthusiastically backs the effort.

The chief judge for the 10th circuit, Michael Brandt, is among the supporters. For more than a year, he invited comments from media as his administration sought to fashion a proposal.

"Other circuits have successfully implemented cameras in the courtroom, and I believe the process properly opens up court proceedings to the public," Brandt said.

A third of Illinois' 102 counties are already taking part in the cameras-in-court program, with several having already broadcast trials live. The most populous county, Cook, has laid the groundwork for taking part.

Starting in 1983, cameras have been allowed at Supreme Court and appellate court hearings. But the bans in lower courts continued over concerns that cameras would be disruptive and undermine a defendant's right to a fair trial.

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Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com

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