Ind. to test cameras, audio in courtrooms

By The Associated Press

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The state's chief justice yesterday authorized some judges to allow cameras and audio recorders into their courtrooms as part of a pilot program easing restrictions on the news media.

The 18-month program was started in response to requests from broadcasters and newspapers. Eight trial judges have agreed to participate.

"We think that in general the public benefits by knowing more about what happens in its courts," Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said.

Shepard said the order would allow journalists to better report what happens in courtrooms and permit real-time Webcasts of many proceedings.

Randy Wheeler, news director of Evansville radio station WIKY, said the public should be able "to see and feel and hear the emotions of the courtroom that can't be captured by the written word."

One video camera, one still camera and up to three audio recorders will be allowed in a courtroom at a time.

Justices approved the order by a 3-2 vote. The project begins July 1 and lasts until the end of 2007. Members of the news media must agree to share coverage under an arrangement approved by the trial judge in advance.

Steve Key, attorney for the Hoosier State Press Association, said the new courtroom access represented the "continuation of a trend."

"The media has not been seen as an enemy of the courts but as a window to open up the courts," he said.