Skurka's Spin: Should cameras be allowed into criminal trials?
Published Tuesday, March 20, 2012 7:10AM EDT
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a statement that next week's hearing on the landmark challenge to the overhaul of the nation's health care laws will not be televised.
The decision stands in stark contrast to the Canadian experience where every oral hearing in the Supreme Court of Canada is televised.
However, a firm line has been drawn in this country against broadcasting any trial proceeding. It is therefore not surprising that a provincial court judge in Winnipeg rejected an application by a variety of media outlets to televise the sentencing proceedings of Graham James.
Justice Catherine Carlson accepted the integral role that the media plays in the court system but rejected the ''extraordinary measure'' of allowing camera to film Graham James' sentencing. As she noted, the ''case is highly charged enough. It's not going to become a spectacle.''
The courts must be transparent and accessible to the public. The controversial history of James' treatment in the past by the criminal justice system demands that the Canadian public scrutinize the judge's sentencing decision.
This can certainly be achieved without the use of the lens of the camera to capture the proceeding.
A meaningful study must be implemented before cameras can ever be permitted in a Canadian courtroom. The study must include the experience in the recent Casey Anthony murder trial in Florida, which was televised in the U.S. There was toxic television commentary by legal analysts like Nancy Grace that converted the televised trial into a circus-like atmosphere. Television cannot become a vehicle to diminish the integrity and fairness of a criminal trial.
Graham James will be sentenced on two counts of sexual assault. His crimes are serious and warrant a severe punishment. There is a wide gulf between the sentencing submissions of James' counsel and the Crown. The judge's reasons for sentencing James need to be scrutinized by the Canadian public. They will be available immediately online for review. This will provide the appropriate accountability that is demanded in this case.
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