N.H. Court: Judges Can’t Arbitrarily Ban Cameras

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(AP) The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled Friday that judges cannot arbitrarily ban cameras from their courtrooms. Trial judges have had broad discretion in issuing such bans.

The high court said judges must hold a hearing and bar cameras based on fact, not speculation; address a particular problem that could harm the proceeding; and impose bans only when no other practical alternative is available.

The New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters, WMUR-TV in Manchester, and The Boston Globe sought the ruling after a dispute with a judge presiding in the case of two Vermont teenagers accused of killing two Dartmouth College professors in 2001.

The judge served notice that cameras and tape recorders would be barred during the trial because of his concern that witnesses and jurors might be influenced by the cameras.

The suspects pleaded guilty and there was no trial, and the news organizations objected when the judge kept the ban in place for the sentencing of one boy, even though there were no witnesses or jurors for that proceeding.

In Friday’s ruling, the high court said the judge had erred and that a fear of jurors or witnesses being influenced by cameras is not reason enough to deny media coverage.

On the Net:

New Hampshire Supreme Court: www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/opinions

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