Essay on Filming Jury Deliberations for Public Television

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Filming Jury Deliberations for Public Television

A whirlwind of controversy arose in November 2002, when Judge Ted Poe, ruled that PBS’s Frontline could film jury deliberations in the trial of Cedric Harrison, 17, who faces the death penalty for allegedly killing a man during a car-jacking. In validating his ruling, Poe held that “cameras in courts keep the system honest” and are an important tool for civic education.1 Poe approved Frontline’s proposal, in which an unobtrusive ceiling camera would be used and no full-time cameraman would be necessary. Frontline had planned to edit the deliberations and broadcast them approximately one year following the verdict as part of a two-to-three hour documentary that would spotlight
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The capital sentencing procedure requires the jury to answer the following three questions in a proceeding that takes place after a verdict finding a person guilty of one of the five specified murder categories: (1) whether the conduct of the defendant causing the death was committed deliberately and with the reasonable expectation that the death would result; (2) whether it is probable that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence constituting a continuing threat to society; and (3) if raised by the evidence, whether the defendant's conduct was an unreasonable response to the provocation, if any, by the deceased. If the jury finds that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the answer to each of the three questions is affirmative, the death sentence is imposed; if it finds that the answer to any question is negative, a sentence of life imprisonment results.3

“If they have eyes, let them see”

Camera proponents voiced numerous critical positions—three of

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