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Crime & Courts

Two judges worry cameras in court hurt defendants

WHEATON – Two DuPage County judges said they’re worried a pilot program that allows cameras in the courtroom may hurt defendants’ ability to get a fair trial.

Judges George Bakalis and Kathryn Creswell said that they’re concerned that too much of the coverage might erode the presumption of innocence that defendants are entitled to.

“Some of the things I’ve seen so far seem to concentrate on just pictures of accused defendants in prison garb and cuffs,” Bakalis said. “I think that’s a problem for the presumption of innocence, which accompanies each of these cases unless a jury decides otherwise.”

Creswell said she’s concerned enough that she’s issued what amounts to a blanket denial for further requests for cameras in the courtroom until she’s convinced “my impressions are incorrect.”

Cameras have been allowed to record proceedings as part of a state Supreme Court pilot program launched last year and so far more than 30 counties across the state have signed up to participate.

“I think the expectation or the goal is that, as cameras in the courtroom become more frequent that more and more judges and more and more other stakeholders will see that some of the fears they may have do not exist or can be minimized,” said Joe Tybor, a spokesman for the Illinois Supreme Court. “I don’t think resistance from judges was unexpected. It’s understandable because it’s change, and change will meet resistance.”

For his part, Bakalis said he’s not ready to write off the cameras entirely, especially if the requests involve cases beyond high-profile felonies.

“I would like to see it used a little more widely than it is being used at the present time,” he said. “I’m not going to say I’m never going to do it.”

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