Debate Over Allowing Cameras In Federal Court
BOSTON (CBS) – Victims’ families waited decades to see Boston’s most notorious underworld boss finally brought to justice and now, the only glimpse of James “Whitey” Bulger is a shadow in a car or an artist’s sketch. During the trial, TV stations will not be allowed to broadcast the arguments.
The judge on Whitey Bulger’s case, Denise Casper, has cameras in her court. And she’s not alone.
Right now 14 Federal Courts, including Boston, are in the midst of a three-year pilot program to evaluate the effect of cameras in the court. Cameras are limited to civil proceedings, and all parties involved must approve the cameras.
The ban on cameras goes back to a time when TV wasn’t relevant, let alone the Internet, where we can now watch on our phones.
Retired Federal Court Judge Nancy Gertner used to hold court in Boston.
“I think it’s an idea whose time has come,” says Gertner. “I think it’s a scandal that we don’t have cameras in the Federal Court.”
WBZ analyst and former District Attorney Gerry Leone is also in favor, but admits there are problems.
“It does add an additional element to witnesses and to how people may act when they are on the stand,” said Leone.
Even Supreme Court justices are divided, with Justice Anthony Kennedy saying, “I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our institution… our dynamic works.”
His colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said she “would not object.”
Gertner thinks cameras in Federal Court will happen soon. “It’s inevitable,” she says.
For now though, this chapter of our history will be limited to pastels and shadows through tinted windows.
There are video cameras in the courtroom where Bulger is being tried, but those cameras are sending video of the proceedings to overflow rooms set up for the media and the public.
TV stations do not have access to those feeds and they are not being recorded.