Judicial rules have made Mississippi courtrooms off limits to television cameras for years, although some judges were willing to bend the rules and let cameras in. A committee made up of judges and media representatives recommended to the state supreme court that cameras be allowed, under certain guidelines. Last week the high court agreed. Mississippi Supreme Court Justice
"Discussions all over the state was very positive that they think it can be informative, educational and there's pros and cons to it. The pros is basically educational, gives people insight into what is actually going on in the courtroom," Chuck Easley said.
Judges say they're concerned about witnesses or victims feeling intimidated by media coverage. But the judges will set the ground rules.
"It's not gonna be perfect. We're gonna have to work with you and you're gonna have to work with us, but it'll all work out to where everybody can be satisfied with it," Jones County Circuit Judge Billy Joe Landrum said.
"We're gonna depend heavily on the experience of the trial judges in these matters cause we have a lot of experience judges in the state, fine quality judges and we're gonna have to rely on their judgment," Easley said.
After so many years of banned cameras, the judges say they're pleased the supreme court is willing to at least give cameras a chance.
"I think the public has a right to know and I think this will be an opportunity for the public to understand what's goin' on in the courtroom," Landrum said.
The courtroom camera rules take effect July first and expires at the end of next year. The supreme court will decide before then if cameras will stay in court.
Under the new rules, cameras will not be allowed in justice and municipal courts. Cameras will also stay out of courtrooms where family matters, rape and domestic issues are decided, unless the judge gives permission.