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Should cameras be allowed in Minnesota courtrooms?

"I think it's important for all cases, whether they be real small or a case like hers because I think the public has a right to know."

Posted: Apr. 25, 2018 9:30 PM
Updated: Apr. 26, 2018 6:41 AM

KIMT NEWS 3 - Being able to see inside a courtroom is something some states, like Iowa, may take for granted when people watch the news.

Currently in Minnesota, a pilot program that launched in 2015 allows cameras in courtrooms in certain circumstances. The Minnesota Supreme Court is considering making that pilot program permanent.

Some community members in Rochester said being able to see what goes on inside courtrooms is important, especially when it involves high-profile cases like Lois Riess.

Riess was inside a Texas courtroom earlier this week, where she waived her extradition rights during a hearing at the Cameron County Sheriff's Office in Olmito. She's now waiting to be transferred to Florida for trial, where online documents confirm cameras are allowed in courtrooms.

Some people said they'd like to see that in Minnesota, as well. Larry Hamand, of Rochester, is one of them.

"I think it's important for all cases, whether they be real small or a case like hers," Hamand said, "because I think the public has a right to know."

Leroy Kilmer, of Rochester, sees it as a right.

"It's kind of like our freedom of speech," Kilmer said. "Our rights, a lot of those are getting taken away and stuff. That'd be something where the public can see what the courtrooms doing."

People still have their concerns.

"That the witnesses would not come forward if they felt that there was a camera in the courtroom," one Rochester woman said, "and that they would maybe, it would be harmful for them in the future, like there would be some restitution against them or whatever."

"I guess if they don't testify, I guess that would be their prerogative," Hamand said, "but I still believe they should have cameras in there."

Whether it be a small, local case or one that's captured the nation, Kilmer said being able to see what goes on in courtrooms might also carry with it valuable lessons.

"It might teach some of our youngsters what they shouldn't be doing," Kilmer said, "so they're not ending up in the courts."

The Minnesota Supreme Court held a public hearing Wednesday to decide if they should make the pilot program permanent. It would allow audio, video and still-photo coverage in proceedings after the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, that would include sentence hearings.

Sexual assault and domestic violence cases are still prohibited, as well as statements made by victims unless they consent. Cameras still wouldn't be allowed during a criminal trial except in rare circumstances.

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