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More Illinois counties could join camera program

Published: Sunday, July 27, 2014 11:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, July 27, 2014 11:26 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO – Half a dozen counties in a central Illinois judicial district could soon join a 2-year-old pilot program that allows cameras in select state courtroom.

A request to participate should be submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court by this fall, with the high court likely to give its approval, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt told Springfield’s State Journal-Register.

The then-chief justice of the state’s high court, Thomas Kilbride, launched the cameras-in-court initiative in 2012 – with the aim of possibly one day ending in-court camera bans for good.

The counties in the 7th Judicial Circuit that Schmidt hopes will be included in the program are Sangamon, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Morgan and Scott. Around 40 of Illinois’ 102 counties are already taking part.

Chief Circuit Judge Leslie Graves asked Schmidt to make the preparations to join the program. That will include meetings with other judges, journalists and lawyers, Schmidt said.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Everyone’s concerns will be addressed.”

Some jurists express concern that the presence of cameras can be disruptive, potentially undermining a defendant’s right to a fair trial. But rules laid out by the state’s highest court are supposed to ensure that doesn’t happen. Cameras, for instance, are barred from certain trials, including juvenile and child-custody cases.

Cameras have already been present in several murder trials elsewhere around the state, most recently in Peoria County at the murder trial of former Baptist missionary Nathan Leuthold. Jurors convicted him last week of killing his wife.

The state has allowed cameras to be present during Supreme Court and appellate court hearings since 1983. But at the time, the ban at state-court trials was kept in place.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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