ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court has made permanent a three-year pilot project that allows limited use of cameras in the state's courtrooms during criminal cases.
The high court gave its formal stamp of approval to the rules in an order Monday. Media outlets and independent journalists still can't provide full photo, video and audio coverage of trials and pretrial hearings. But the rules allow audio, video and photos of proceedings after a defendant pleads guilty or is convicted, such as sentencing hearings.
There are exceptions for criminal sexual conduct and domestic violence cases. Testimony from victims or someone testifying on behalf of a victim, hearings without the presiding judge present and cases in treatment courts also are protected. Juries cannot be filmed or photographed.
Mark Anfinson, an attorney for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, told the Star Tribune that the permanent rules represent progress.
"I think the court ultimately will have to go much further, along the lines of what Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota do," he said. "All have allowed routine coverage of court cases for more than 30 years. And more than 30 other states do as well."
Opponents of the change included victims' advocates who worried that crime victims would be unwilling to come forward if they feared that they could end up photographed or on television.
The Supreme Court's order noted that during the three-year pilot project, media requested permission to cover 79 cases. Coverage was allowed in 53.
A majority of members on an advisory committee that monitored the project concluded the overall impact of the coverage ranged from neutral to positive, with minimal disruptions of proceedings, the order said.
"The results of the pilot project ... allow us to conclude that the conditions that govern the coverage of these public proceedings provide the appropriate balance between the fundamental right of a defendant to a fair trial and the judicial branch's commitment to the fair, open, and impartial administration of justice," the order said.
Civil cases in Minnesota have been open to cameras since 2011. Cameras remain prohibited in federal trials.
The final order shortened the notice period for news organizations that want to cover a criminal proceeding from 10 days to seven.