A landmark change is about to take effect as Mississippi opens its courtrooms to cameras. This was a major topic at this year's AP convention in Biloxi this weekend, as judges and media workers talked openly about just how this change should be handled.
In just four days, cameras will be allowed in the state's courtrooms. The decision was handed down by the Mississippi Supreme Court earlier this year, much to the relief of media workers throughout the state.
During the Byron de la Beckwith case, sketches were the only way reporters could show the drama that unfolded inside the courtroom, but, times are changing. On July 1st Mississippi courtrooms will be open to cameras, a privilege that must be handled carefully.
"Journalists need to educate themselves as to the rule, as to the court procedures. I think the judges need to be aware of the problems journalists have and to have a spirit of cooperation to helping them do their job as well," media attorney Leonard Van Slyke said.
Saturday, that spirit of cooperation was evident as judges and journalists from throughout the state discussed the new option at the Mississippi Associated Press meeting in Biloxi.
"This is like painting a picture. We'll have more to paint with than having black and white. The real benefit will be to the viewing public who will know a lot more about what's going on in the courtroom than they have in the past," WLOX News director Dave Vincent said.
Mississippi is the last state to officially allow cameras in the courtroom and leaders in the news industry say this is a change that is long overdue.
"I think we're a very conservative state. Everybody wanted to make it work right. And I want to really give praise the justices on the Supreme Court. I think they've shown the leadership so that we have cameras in the courtroom," Vincent said.
Cameras will not be allowed in justice or municipal courts and judges will still have the final say on what goes on in their courtroom, but one thing is for certain, the public will have more insight on local court cases and will be able to see first-hand just how our court system works.