The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday chose a judicial district on the Iowa border to experiment with cameras in courtrooms because media there already have experience with the practice.
Cameras will be allowed in the 14th Judicial Circuit as part of a pilot program. Cameras are banned in courtrooms in the rest of the state.
The circuit includes Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Whiteside counties.
Spokesman Joe Tybor said the court picked the district with the most familiarity with broadcast coverage of trials. Iowa, just across the Mississippi River, has allowed cameras in courtrooms since 1979.
The announcement comes a week after the high court approved the pilot program, much to the pleasure of many judges and other legal professionals.
"I have no doubt that it could be a big plus," Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy Evans said a week ago. "I don’t think the public members know as much about the court system, as I think this new system will provide them with answers."
For the last 194 years, sketch artists or other means of creativity have been the only way to visually depict what's transpired during proceedings. Illinois' foray into letting cameras in the courtroom allows for more transparency, many say.
Illinois had been one of only 14 states where cameras were not allowed in courtrooms. Another is Ohio, where a television station has opted to use puppets to depict a corruption trial.
Illinois' experiment does come with some restrictions:
- Jurors and potential jurors may not be photographed.
- Cameras and recording devices will not be allowed in juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody and evidence suppression cases.
- No more than two television cameras and no more than two still photographers will be allowed in a courtroom at one time.
- Victims of violent felonies, police informants and relocated witnesses may request that the judge prohibit them from being photographed.