April 20, 2006
Growing public interest in courtroom drama was the topic of discussion for some Oklahoma Baptist University students Thursday afternoon.
Pottawatomie County Associate District Judge John Gardner addressed students in a media law and ethics class. The guest lecture coincided with class readings on the rights of a free press and the right to a fair trial.
“The timing of Judge Gardner’s visit was particularly significant given the gag order issued Tuesday by the judge in the Underwood case in Purcell,” said Dr. Roger Hadley, chair of OBU’s communication arts division.
Gardner said laws about camera access to courtrooms and trials differ from state to state, and also change on the federal level.
“In many places, judges are given the option to choose whether or not cameras should be allowed,” he said. “The judge is in the best position to know whether or not camera coverage will interfere with the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Usually it is a case-by-case basis.”
Gardner said more judges are favoring video coverage because of public interest and rising media attention given to high profile trials.
“Overall, there is a bigger push for cameras in courtrooms than against them,” he said. “The public has a right to see and understand that the proceedings are just and fair. It is a matter of balance.”