Friday, February 03, 2012

Trial videos sealed

A reader sends this story:
Videos of the San Francisco trial over California's ban on same-sex marriage must remain sealed, a federal appeals court ruled today, saying the trial judge who authorized the recordings had promised that they would not be broadcast.

"The integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge's word," said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 3-0 ruling.

The integrity of our judicial system depends on a judge's promise to conceal evidence? This is the judge who was a closeted gay until the end of the trial, when wrote an long opinion favoring gays and announcing that he was gay himself. Apparently he only wanted the recordings for his political purposes:
Then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker had approved camera coverage over the objections of Prop. 8's sponsors, a conservative religious coalition called Protect Marriage. ... Walker recorded the trial, but only, he said, to use the videos to prepare his ruling and make them available to lawyers on both sides for their final arguments. ... When Walker retired from the bench in February 2011, he took copies of the trial videos and used them to show brief excerpts in lectures to college audiences.
Walker's replacement was James Ware, who is famous for telling a story all his life about growing up black in the South and his brother Virgil being murdered by white racists. He was exposed as a liar when he told the story on national TV.
In September, Walker's successor, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, ruled that the videos were part of the trial record and should be released. He said Walker's commitment to keep them sealed was not a guarantee of permanent secrecy, was not binding on other judges and should not bar public access to a now-completed trial on an issue of great public interest.
I guess Ware figured that if videos held him accountable for his lies, then others should be also held similarly accountable. Someday all trials will be broadcast on the web. Judges would do better if they were more accountable.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Meanwhile I just found this similar story about televising a criminal trial, from the CBC in Canada: "B.C. drops plan to televise Vancouver riot trials" (more info 2011 Vancouver riots). The story explained, "The presence of cameras could intimidate witnesses, some legal experts said." What is more important, transparency of the court system or protecting crucial witnesses from retaliation? And do you know of any judicial cases that were broadcast to the public (whether thru broadcast or the internet) other than OJ Simpson's trial?