The Brian Kohberger trial: Battle over cameras in court as Americans embrace televised trials at record rates

Idaho student slaying suspect Brian Kohberger is due in court today as a Latah County judge considers whether to allow courtroom cameras during future trials.

“I’m not swayed by the views on either side of wanting to end camera coverage,” said Royal Oaks, a longtime media advocate and general counsel for the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California.

The defense, he said, is arguing against the media presence, claiming it could bias the jury and that the defendant’s photo violates Judge John’s “directive” during the June 27 hearing. He warned a media group’s lawyers to be ready to defend the camera’s place in court.

“The solution is to deter criminals and punish them through contempt of court,” Oakes told Fox News Digital. “The solution is not to stop a valuable function of transparency.”

MOSCOW, IDAHO – AUGUST 18: Brian Kohberger enters court for a hearing on August 18, 2023 in Moscow, Idaho. Kohberger is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022.

And the jury selection process is already designed to eliminate bias, he said.

Prosecutors also argued that allowing cameras in the courtroom could dissuade witnesses or violate Kohberger’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial, all claims Oakes rejected.

“I think it would be a shame if the judge went along with the views of the parties, just because they’re in the courtroom,” Oakes said. “For a judge to do that would really spit in the eyes of the general public. The public pays for the courts. They vote for the lawmakers who make the rules that apply in the courtroom. The public has a right to see its legal system. In action.”

The issue rests with the judge, and over the years, it has come up again and again in high-profile in-camera trials with mixed results.

Here are some other high-profile trials that have captivated the American public during broadcasts from courtrooms and verdicts:

OJ Simpson

Orenthal James “OJ” Simpson was accused of the brutal double murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles in 1994.

His trial was also televised, after an infamous low-speed car chase in Simpson’s white Ford Bronco was broadcast across the country.

Oakes successfully persuaded the judge to allow live coverage of the trial, creating 24-hour coverage for nearly a year.

Jurors, sequestered for more than eight months, found Simpson not guilty after less than four hours of deliberations.

About 95 million people watched the Bronco Chase and 150 million, nearly half the U.S. population, watched the trials at the time, according to Forbes.

Ted Bundy

Ratings data for the 1979 Florida murder trial of Ted Bundy was not readily available, but it was one of the first to be televised nationally in the United States.

Those who tuned in got an early dose of reality TV. According to Rolling Stone, during the penalty phase, he legally married his ex-girlfriend Carol Ann Boone in court.

Bundy, whose crimes are against members of the Chi Omega sorority at Florida State University have been compared Kohberger, of the University of Idaho, is accused of killing dozens of women before executing them in the electric chair in Florida.

According to The Associated Press, jurors deliberated for less than seven hours in 1979 before convicting him in the FSU case. He ended his appeal a decade later and stayed to cool.

Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges in the 2011 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Kelly, after a highly publicized trial that lasted more than a month. Jurors, however, found him guilty of a lesser charge of lying to law enforcement.

His defense team told jurors the child accidentally drowned in the family pool. But the little girl’s remains were found five months after she was last seen alive in the woods near Anthony’s home.

Prosecutors argued that Anthony suffocated her child. But investigators never found a cause of death.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, HLN drew 4.6 million viewers for Anthony’s verdict, and Deadline reports that the premiere of a documentary on the case set a ratings record for Investigation Discovery in 2017.

Alex Murdoff

Alex Murdoff, a 55-year-old South Carolina lawyer from a wealthy and influential family, was convicted in June 2021 of the brutal shooting deaths of his wife and sons Maggie and Paul near a dog kennel on the family estate.

He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in March.

Murdoff’s lawyers filed an appeal last week alleging jury tampering on behalf of the court clerk.

Murdoff’s trial saw a 600% jump in Court TV viewership to 4.8 million watchers as the jurors handed down their verdicts, NextTV reported. It was the network’s second most-watched trial after the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard civil case.

“They’re all different because they all have outside influences,” said New Jersey defense attorney David Gelman. “OJ Simpson, it had a racial element; Casey Anthony, it was just a complete circus, if you will; the others, where you have Alex Murdoff and Ted Bundy, the evidence was so overwhelming, I think the jury saw that.”

Gelman, who said he has tried cases as a prosecutor and defense attorney Cameras in court, said he believes the public has a right to have cameras in court and suggested they could benefit both sides. But it ultimately depends on the judge.

But he also said it was becoming increasingly difficult to separate jurors during trials.

On TV or even when the TV is off“Judges are supposed to be segregated,” he said. “I don’t know how judges can instruct jurors to spend more time saying don’t watch the news, don’t talk to anybody, because it’s almost impossible for a person, if they’re on their cellphone, outside. Not getting some sort of information from the trial from the source.”

A hearing on the motion to remove the cameras in Kohberger’s case is scheduled for 2 pm PT.

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