Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Monday, October 6, 2014

Should We Have Video Cameras In The Courtroom?—The Effect on the Jury

Recently, there has been a debate raging about whether cameras should be placed in the courtroom. This has been particularly amplified with the U.S. Supreme Court, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/03/cameras-in-the-supreme-court-why-the-justices-are-skeptical/, and there have been writers on both sides of the debate. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/291437-cameras-in-the-courtroom-would-benefit-court-and-public (pro-video cameras) http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-take-cameras-out-of-court/2013/07/09/dcfc4498-e8d1-11e2-a301-ea5a8116d211_story.html (anti-video cameras). When video cameras are debated, however, one consideration is never considered by the debaters—the possible effect of court video cameras on juries. How could video cameras in court affect juries?

The main concern is that jurors in the trial could feel social pressures, from both community groups and from viewers on television, to make a certain decision. Currently, where there are no video cameras in the courtroom, the jurors only have to make the decision from the evidence that they and everybody else in the courtroom hears and sees. However, if video cameras are allowed in the courtroom, suddenly many people, possibly millions, will be judging every shred of evidence in the courtroom. For example, a television channel formed in South Africa for the recent Oscar Pistorius trial instantly became the fourth most watched channel in the country. http://www.channel24.co.za/TV/News/Oscar-Pistorius-TV-channel-a-massive-viewership-success-for-DStv-20140513. Additionally, over 100 million people tuned in to the OJ Simpson trial. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/gallery/10-tv-trials-shook-world-208094#8. If yet further proof is needed, during the verdict of the Casey Anthony Trial, the HLN network got its highest ratings in 29 years. http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/06/casey-anthony-verdict-brings-hln-record-ratings/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0. Many of those people watching would only catch parts of the argument, while the jurors in the courtroom would be judging the evidence based on the entire trial. This could bias some jurors, who may then be able to pressure other jurors to vote a certain way. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/03/jn.aspx. Another worry is that outside community opinion about how the jury should vote might be one way and the jury, considering the evidence, might want to vote another way. Without the video cameras, this pressure is not present on the jurors.

Another concern about jurors and video cameras in the courtroom is that the jurors may be too focused on the video cameras, and not on the evidence at the trial. There is anecdotal evidence, http://www.thegreatfitnessexperiment.com/2012/06/you-are-being-watched-but-does-this-change-how-you-act.html (a personal fitness blog), as well as various scientific studies that have been performed to verify this. If video cameras entered a courtroom, it is possible that jurors might pay too much attention to the video cameras and not enough attention to the attorneys and the evidence, might try to dress up or attract the attention of the video cameras in some way, or might make comments in the courtroom that could be caught by the video camera. However, if video cameras are not in the courtroom, jurors are free to focus on the trial, and only on the trial. In this end, this is good for all parties in the case, as the jury is giving the evidence its true attention and is not more concerned with some external influence or pressure.

The debate about whether video cameras should be in the courtroom will probably rage for some time. However, all sides need to consider who could be influenced the most if video cameras are allowed in the courtroom permanently—the jury.

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