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The term judicial process refers to the rules of procedural law that consists of both hearing and determining cases in criminal proceedings, civil lawsuits or administrative proceedings by constitutional courts. In case of civil or criminal offences, the subjects often find it prudent to settle the matter in a court and the process of listening to the evidence collected by the prosecutor and the defense of the accused in the presence of a judge is what is referred to as proceedings. A judicial process involves judges and juries who interpret and apply the law in resolving a dispute as well as administering justice. The process puts into consideration the rules that determine the roles of judges and the juries in the courtroom. In setting up these rules, fairness and consistency have to be ensured to facilitate the application of fundamental justice. The court involved in these hearings and proceedings have to apply these rules equally in all the cases presented before it. Judicial process can be understood as the rules that touch on the responsibility bestowed upon the judge and jury within the courtroom. Included in these rules is the individual court’s jurisdiction over precise law areas.
Both educational televisions and news media have the privilege to record and photograph public proceedings held in, for instance, Appellate courts, District courts and the Municipal courts. However, for the same to be done there are some procedures and conditions that these photographic and electronic media coverage have to meet. To begin with, only educational television stations and news media are the ones granted the privilege to do the photographing and recording of court proceedings. Moreover, the reproduction s of films, photography, videotapes and audio is solely done for either education or dissemination of news (Martinez, 2009, 2). However, it is very vital to note that this granted privilege does not put a ceiling on the authority of the judge to be in charge of the case proceedings. The powers bestowed upon the judge to bar out the media, or even the public, during the witness’s testimony are applied to any individual actively involved in this privilege. Prohibition has also been made on photographing the counsel’s tables.
Another of the conditions is the impossibility of photographing individual jurors. Although permission has been granted for the photographing in courtrooms where the inclusion of individual juries cannot be done away with, prohibitions are equally made for clips identifying these individual juries. The judge, as a matter of discretion, has the powers to prohibit both the photography work and audio recording in any proceeding in the courtroom. Another incident which may make the judge to order a prohibition of media coverage is at the request of a participant. However, the latter has to be a witness or a victim of the crime at hand, an agent under cover, a police informant or a juvenile. The request also goes through if the case involves trade secrets, divorce proceedings or a hearing that is evidentiary suppressive (Cardozo, 1921).
Official recordings by court officials should not be affected by the news media’s film, photography, audio or videotape reproductions of the proceedings of the court. The placing within and removal from the courtroom of the media equipment is only done either prior the proceeding commencement or after its adjournment on a daily basis or in times of recess. Recording of interviews for the purposes of broadcasting, just adjacent to the courtroom’s entrances ought not to be made. This is so especially to avoid blocking of the passageways or if the same shall cause disturbances on the judicial proceedings. Additionally, the judge has powers to veto photographing and all cameras from the entire court floor (Kansas Judicial Center, 2007).
The rate of media coverage on various judicial issues has of late been on the increase. Just to mention a few agents of the coverage, they include newsmagazines, newspapers, cable television extensions and the 24-hour cycle of news broadcasting. Other channels include the popular of radio talk shows and the internet especially after the year 1995. These, among other channels promote the legal coverage of various cases, especially those of celebrities. It is through the combination of these that O.J. Simpson’s murder trial was brought into focus. Simpson was a legend footballer (Fox et al, 2007, 136). The integration of entertainment and news played a very pivotal role in publicizing proceedings. It is through this that a bigger population within the United States got to know the existence of William Kennedy Smith, the rape suspect who was acquitted. William, among others such as Scott Peterson and Natalee Holloway- a possible victim of murder- became reference points, culturally, for quite a good number of Americans. The public got knowledge and was aware of various events via the TV commentators and the same was not only worthy but also important in terms of national focus (Spitzer, 1993).
Media Effects on the Judicial Process
It can be universally agreed that the media is the best medium through which the public learns of the judicial process. This may be in writing as for the case of newspapers. Others like television recorded video tapes and radio can never be left out, this majorly operates at designated frequencies. All this media outlets have relatively heterogeneous and anonymous audiences who have different interests. There are those that are interested in the case for their own study purposes while others want to gauge the institutions in charge of justice in a given country. The media however may, however, cloud this view by the manner of coverage.
Media is responsible for creation of hype among the public according to the manner in which the cases are depicted. The media can make the public for instance side with the accused as witnessed in the case of Rodney King. Rodney King is coverage an example of how media can play a role in influencing justice in a judicial process. This emanated from recorded clips of policemen beating him though unarmed and evidently subdued (Cannon, 1999). This reporting shaped a view that injustice was being done against the accused precisely due to extra judicial event of racialism. The case of O.J Simpson trial also depicts a case where the public got interested in the case since it turned out to be like a battle of the races, thanks to media coverage. Simpson, a black man, was accused of murdering his white wife, and it is evident that the black and the white races were in competition and the jury may have reached conclusion of the case basing on the race hype (Bugliosi, 1997). Moreover, there is tendency of media to report cases involving celebrities at the expense of high profile cases. The top newspapers and magazines and also the network news programs, which were more often nightly, during the period of Simpson’s trial, gave limited space for those legal proceedings that were of a high profile. For instance, the murder investigation for JonBenet Ramsey only took five minutes.
The judicial process usually attracts a lot of attention from the public in that people want to be furnished with information on the progress of the case. It is in the wake of these concerns that media becomes instrumental; media will convey the proceedings of the judicial process as well as air out views of the public concerning the verdict arrived at by the judges. Many are times the media will tend to influence the reception of the audience concerning any given subject .Media will identify the biasness of the approach of the issue as well as focus on the irrelevant and unrealized justice that may stir ill feelings about the judicial process among the public.
Several issues have emerged as a result of the debate on whether both television and electronic coverage of the court proceedings should be publicized. The debate’s aim is to strike a balance between access by the public of these judicial proceeding and the adverse effects the same could have in within the courtroom. Some of these emergent issues include the transparency of the arena of democracy and democratic values, due process, separation of powers, civic education, security and observation of integrity during court proceedings. Due to these issues, it is evident that both the proponents and the opponents had their arguments and defenses.
The proponents are for the view that the media will empower the public to access the judicial proceedings with ease. According to them, it is constitutionally right for a fair trial to be administered to anybody, inclusive of appeals. Bearing this in mind, therefore, the court proceeding should be made open to the general public. This is only achievable in the event that the press has the freedom to both gather and publicize the same via various media. Additionally, some proponents are for the take that apart from open proceedings leading to fair trials, they also build up the democracy levels in the society (Martinez, 2009, 4). The court, in the proceedings of Richmond Newspapers, Inc v. Virginia in1980, gave out a suggestion that besides openness promoting the right of freedom of speech; it in equal manner promotes the criminal defendants’ rights and also the rights of other parties in the due process.
By televising judicial proceedings, the judiciary is depicted as transparent and open. This act is a representation of progression- on natural basis- from audio-taping to enable the public access these proceedings easily and therefore seeing to it that the levels of transparency are raised in the operations of the court and the government in the broader perspective. Senator Patrick Leahy also supported the same by saying that these court proceedings ought to be unbolted to the public. This transparency through the publicizing of the court proceedings also has an educational value. Through the broadcasts, the public get to learn very vital civic lessons and this is a source of insight to the public in terms of the ways and mannerisms in which federal courts conduct hearings (Tong, 2006). Publicizing the proceedings in the courtroom safeguards the privacy and security of those involved. The act of obscuring the voices and images of both the jurors and the witnesses makes security and privacy available.
Opponents also have their list of objections to the act of making the court proceedings public. First, this move leads to the growth of tension between rights of the person being accused to trial by a jury that is impartial and those of others guaranteed in the State’s First Amendment in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart of 1976. In essence, publicity of the court proceedings could give birth to a number of rights problems, specific for particular situations. Additionally, the televising of the proceedings of the federal courts could probably impair the citizen’s fundamental rights to a fair trial since the individual could feel intimidated. As a result of the changing status quo of various courts of appeal, the conference has been against televising proceedings. According to Jan DuBois, a U.S. District court judge, broadcasting the proceedings of the District court will jeopardize the right to an impartial and fair trial because of their impacts on witnesses, jurors and other parties. In his view, these cameras’ disadvantages will prevail over its merits and as thus, the development of a negative effect on the substance of the court proceedings (Creech, 2007).
The use of cameras in courtrooms has also raised concerns on the issue of separation of powers. This is more specifically on the separation of powers mandate. Allowing the media to broadcast the proceedings of the courtroom, according to Justices Clarence Thomas and Antony Kennedy, would be inconsistent with the etiquette and high esteem applicable between the various branches. Their argument is that knowledge, dynamics and the mood of the court proceedings is well understood by the juries and as such cameras ought not to be allowed in these courtrooms.
Publicizing the court proceeds also has a potentiality for causing misinterpretation. Owing to the fact that not all are well acquitted with the operations of a court, televising the same could lead to wrong ideas of the courts proceedings. One of the court activity is the judges’ work in seclusion, encompassing reading, writing and taking into consideration voluminous books and documents. All these have to be accomplished before making a deliberation in conferences with other justices. Televising courtroom proceedings could lead to the loss of the degree of anonymity on the side of the justices, resulting in lowered privacy. Furthermore, this realized loss would bring forth issues pertaining security. Security is a major concern, not on the perspective of the judges solely, but to other stakeholders such as the witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and also court staff who are involved in criminal and civil trial courts (Tong, 2006). Security concerns have been substantiated by the of-late incidences of judges and other court personnel being attacked. Additionally, the same have received death threats. Therefore, television broadcasts showing the photos of the judges hearing and possibly giving rulings over various criminal cases make them be more exposed hence becoming targets of dissenting criminals. This is rooted to the fact that these court personnel can be easily identified. On the side of the witnesses, broadcasting means their personal private information get to be known to the general public and these can lead to their being intimidated. In addition, the potential repercussions might make them shy or else unwilling testify in any hearing.
Though the two sides are in existent, a central point has to be identified so as to see to it that neither suppresses the other. In the above analysis of electronic coverage and televising of the court proceedings, it is notable that the effort is hardly aimed at making entertainment out of court reporting. Much of what is broadcast rarely major on the human interest and/or on drama, but gives a report of the truths of the cases at hand in the court in a manner that in understood with much ease. Furthermore, some coverage tends to be very educational since they give elaborations of the law itself, its process and penalties (Vision & Ertter, 2002).
As compared to television, newspapers coverage have proved to be prone to dramatization in their coverage, centering their attention on the emotional aspects and reporting what is dramatic. This is because the reporters of these newspapers have a large space for incorporating more detailed information. It is notable; however, that the use of cameras in courtrooms promotes more dramatized reporting in comparison to print media. The media should by no means tend to lean so much on the evidence that can be dramatized on the part of the defendant. This should be looked into carefully since even some individuals making up the audience might be having their own ruling of the suspect’s guilt which is contrary to the judge’s position. In a similar manner, having cameras in the courtrooms may result to spread of prejudicial positions. The reporters get trapped in dramatized reporting as they will only be interested in those trial portions which will rarely make them give explanations of what happened. Conversely, the absence of camera may lead to the journalism lengthening the explanations of the case other than just making a summary of the same.
Having cameras in the courtrooms has a major role in the story framing. The absence of the video coverage lures reporters to make an expansion of the case focus beyond the walls of the courtroom. Various options have to be instituted therefore to see that legislation regarding electronic media coverage and televisions does not go overboard in the court hearings. Alternatively, obscuring of faces, images or even the voices of various witnesses and jurors during the electronic media coverage especially for federal court proceedings should be arrived at. This will ensure that the privacy and security of these court personnel and attorneys is well catered for in almost all the proceedings.
The media plays a pivotal role of providing the general public with educational reporting of all the happenings during the court proceedings. The media coverage ought to be shaped to fit well with the rules of judicial process that are designed to ensure justice is delivered. Cases of criminal justice involve third parties of neutral interest whose conduct stand to be affected by media coverage. The media can either intimidate or expose the parties to future insecurity. In the past, media reporting have presented difficulties as parties involved have either been influenced in one way or another. Measures to ensure balanced media coverage should therefore be instituted to protect the sanctity of the judicial process.
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