Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Judges Allowing Media Cameras in Court for Two Murder Cases

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Judges Allowing Media Cameras in Court for Two Murder Cases

Article excerpt

Manitoba courts ready for their close-up


WINNIPEG - The public will get a front-row seat for a murder trial verdict for the first time as Manitoba launches a pilot project that will allow media cameras in select court hearings.

A TV camera will be allowed into court Wednesday to hear the fate of Cassandra Knott, who is charged with the second-degree murder of her husband. In her trial last year, Knott pleaded not guilty because she said the 2011 stabbing was self-defence.

This will be the first time a camera has been allowed to broadcast a Manitoba criminal court proceeding. Up until now, hand-held cameras have not even been allowed in the building.

"While courts are open to the public, few members have the opportunity to attend those courts in person," justice officials said in a statement. "Most people rely on the media to tell them what happens. As a result, the media play an important role with regard to informing the public about the operation of the courts and the open-court principle."

A camera will also be allowed into the Court of Appeal on April 30 for the case of Denis Labossiere, who was found guilty of killing his parents and brother in 2005.

More details are expected when the province's chief judges hold a press conference to roll out the initiative Tuesday.

Attorney General Andrew Swan said televising a murder trial verdict may seem like an extreme place to start, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Only the judge will appear on camera so there is no security risk to witnesses or lawyers, he said.

"We want to make sure that people who show tremendous courage -- witnesses, victims -- that they're protected," he said. "We don't want people to be doubly victimized. We also want to make sure that Crown attorneys and, yes, even defence lawyers are safe in the work they do.

"We want people to have confidence in the justice system and I agree with the chief judges of our different levels of court that cameras in the courtroom can be a way to get there."

Cameras have long been allowed in U.S. courtrooms, but Canadian courts have been more reluctant.

Some argue allowing TV cameras would make the courts more transparent, but others worry cameras would have a chilling effect on witnesses and turn the halls of justice into "media circuses. …

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