Starting in November, the Minnesota Supreme Court will allow cameras and audio into limited parts of criminal trials.
The Aug. 12 ruling is a welcome and long-overdue development. While access to criminal proceedings is very limited and the court has moved at a glacial pace, we are moving in the right direction to add more transparency to legal proceedings by allowing cameras in Minnesota courtrooms.
Earlier, the high court allowed cameras into civil trials and hearings with the judge’s permission. That pilot program ordered by the court went so well, it has been expanded to cover the final part of proceedings in criminal trials. Audiovisual access will be limited to the post-conviction portions of criminal proceedings. Those include after a guilty verdict is returned or a guilty plea is accepted.
What follows are often some of the most newsworthy developments: sentencing and motions to overturn a verdict.
An important part of this ruling is that trial court judges must permit audiovisual coverage in most cases, regardless of the judge’s preference or consent from the parties. This is an important step toward an eventual goal of having all parts of a criminal trial open to audiovisual except under certain limited circumstances.
Judges still have the ability to keep audiovisual out of the courtroom, but they will have to explain the reasons for the decision.
This new ruling is part of a pilot project, subject to court review in 2018, that we are certain will show little interference with the legal process by having audiovisual. Not only will people find the coverage informative, it also will help educate people on the legal processes created to ensure fairness to all parties.
We applaud the high court, especially Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, for creating this new pilot project despite strong opposition. The pilot project will allow the decision on audiovisual coverage of criminal cases to be based on facts and not conjecture, hunches or gut feelings.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE ALBERT LEA TRIBUNE