The Society of Professional Journalists said Friday that judges should not try to fix perceived problems with news coverage by tinkering with the justice system. This was in response to the actions of Superior Court Judge Hirshi Fujisaki, who barred still and video camera coverage of the O.J. Simpson civil trial. The judge also barred sketch artists and upheld a gag order that prohibited both lawyers and trial participants from discussing the case in the media.
"Keeping cameras out of the courtroom will not make the trial more fair, but it will make the process less open to scrutiny," said G. Kelly Hawes, SPJ president. "If the news media has been guilty of excesses in covering the O.J. Simpson case, the way to fix that is not to put a cloak of secrecy around the proceedings. Making the judicial process less open will only make it more likely that the public will have to rely on second-hand information and speculation about what goes on in the courtroom."
Hawes also said that news coverage was not entirely to blame for the so-called circus atmosphere surrounding the case.
"What the cameras showed during the trial was exactly what was happening in the courtroom," said Hawes. "It's up to judges to manage courtrooms and ensure fair trials. It's up to journalists simply to report what happens."