Illinois Trials Are Ready for Their Close-Ups

     SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) - Reporters can use cameras in Illinois courtrooms on a circuit-by-circuit basis under a new program starting immediately, the state Supreme Court announced Tuesday.
     The experimental program allows the chief judge of each circuit to apply to the Illinois Supreme Court for permission to allow cameras in their courtrooms.
     Once approved, media personnel may then request to electronically cover eligible cases in that particular circuit. They must make their requests at least 14 days before the date of a scheduled proceeding.
     Media pooling is encouraged, with a limit of two video cameras and two still photographers per hearing. In cases of sexual abuse, or when sexual abuse is central to the prosecution, the testifying victim must consent to extended media coverage.
     "This is another step to bring more transparency and more accountability to the Illinois court system," Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride said in a statement. "The provisions of this new policy keep discretion in the chief circuit judge and the trial judge to assure that a fair and impartial trial is not compromised, yet affords a closer look at the workings of our court system to the public through the eyes of the electronic news media and news photographers."
     Court spokesman Joe Tybor told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the new rules for cameras will be on a limited and experimental basis to determine whether media and fair trials can co-exist.
     Illinois has allowed cameras in Supreme Court and Appellate Court hearings since 1983, but it continued the ban during trials because of fairness concerns.
     Without the program, Illinois is one of 14 states that bar cameras inside circuit courtrooms.