TV or Not TV: Television, Justice, and the Courts

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TV or not TV: Television, Justice, and the Courts. Ronald L. Goldfarb. New York: New York University Press, 1998. 238 pp. $24.95.

Should television cameras be allowed in courtrooms throughout the country? For Ronald Goldfarb, author of TV or not TV, the answer is both straightforward and complex. Yes, Goldfarb believes cameras belong in courtrooms, but that reasoning is based on an intricate relationship between the public, the courts, the press, and the Constitution.

An attorney who has written extensively on media law, Goldfarb presents a solid review of the history of free press-fair trial issues in sensational trials under both British and U.S. law. From John Peter Zenger's trial for seditious libel in 1734 to the Scopes trial on the teaching of evolution in 1925, Goldfarb reviews sensational courtroom settings with a thorough eye for how the media and public "participated" in the process. He then folds in the use of cameras in American courtrooms during the twentieth century. Beginning with the Hauptmann trial for kidnaping the Lindbergh baby in 1935, through Dr. Sam Sheppard's sensational 1954 murder trial and O.J. Simpson's 1995/96 murder trial, Goldfarb evaluates sensational trials with cameras present. His conclusions show that cameras made little difference where sensational cases were concerned.

The first three chapters of TV or not TV provide an excellent background for those not initiated to the controversy over cameras in courtrooms. The often contemptuous relationship between the media and the courts is clearly stated. For those well read on the issue, the first half of this book provides an excellent refresher.

But media and legal scholars will probably be more interested in chapter four of TV or not TV. …