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Q&A: Cameras have been allowed in Florida courtrooms since 1979

Cameras in Fla. courts since '79

I always thought cameras were not allowed in the courtroom. How is it that Bay News 9 has the Casey Anthony trial on its channel all day, day after day, week after week?

In 1979, the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow cameras in the courtroom. The judges' opinion stated:

"We are persuaded that on balance there is more to be gained than lost by permitting electronic media coverage of judicial proceedings subject to standards for such coverage. The prime motivating consideration promoting our conclusion is this state's commitment to open government."

Praising the decision in 2009, then-Chief Justice Peggy Quince wrote:

". . . The Florida Supreme Court forged ahead and created what I would argue was and is the nation's broadest rule allowing cameras into courtrooms. With the exception of certain categories of cases, such as juvenile proceedings, cameras are permitted. Judges can exclude or limit them only if one of the parties demonstrates that the cameras will cause harm. But the standard for demonstrating such harm is high, and lawyers for the media must have an opportunity to be heard in opposition."

Not all fees covered for Anthony

Is it true that the taxpayers are having to pay the bills for Casey Anthony's defense? If so, why is she allowed to hire such high-priced lawyers?

The Orlando Sentinel reported in March 2010 that the defense for Casey Anthony, accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008, had received $200,000 from ABC, $70,000 from a former attorney on the defense team, and $5,000 from an undisclosed donor.

That disclosure was made at a hearing in which the defense said that money was gone, and that the state should start paying her legal bills. Anthony's lawyers also said there were no book or movie deals in the works.

Orange County Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland ruled that Anthony was indigent, and that some of her defense would be financed by the state of Florida. State law holds that a defendant is indigent if he or she has assets of less than $2,500, excluding the value of a home and a vehicle that's worth less than $5,000.

"All costs submitted shall be in compliance with the Ninth Judicial Circuit's caps and rates and are subject to further review," wrote Strickland, who later disqualified himself from the case and was replaced by Orange County Superior Court Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr.

What that means is that the state will pay expenses related to her defense, but not her private attorney's fees (several on her defense team have announced they are donating their services). Some examples of what is being covered: subpoena serving, investigations, travel, experts to interpret forensic evidence, expert witness fees and the cost of depositions.

Q&A: Cameras have been allowed in Florida courtrooms since 1979 06/19/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 19, 2011 4:30am]
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