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Justice hangs in the balance. Courtesy | Flickr

For the past eight days, hun­dreds of thou­sands of viewers have tuned in to livestreams of the Kyle Rit­ten­house trial. The Illinois res­ident, who was 17 years old when he was arrested, is accused of mur­dering two rioters in Kenosha, Wis­consin, in August 2020 during the riots that swept the country in the months after George Floyd’s death. 

Before the heavily pub­li­cized trial began, the Left con­demned the 18 year old to the death penalty while the Right labeled him a hero. But now that Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder allowed the trial to be livestreamed, Amer­icans have the chance to hear both sides and judge for themselves. 

Peering into the courtroom in real time allows Amer­icans to avoid relying on jour­nalists’ poten­tially slanted coverage.

Con­gress and all 50 states should require federal and state courts to livestream court pro­ceedings, with some excep­tions for certain cases like those involving minors or sexual assault.

Most states allow live cov­erage to some extent, though some very min­i­mally. Federal court camera rules vary by dis­trict and many ban live cov­erage. Other dis­tricts leave it up to the judge, who nor­mally denies cameras in the courtroom. 

With record-high dis­trust in the media — only 36% of those sur­veyed in a recent Gallup poll said they have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media — it is long past time to open the doors of our courts to ensure trust in the fun­da­mental insti­tu­tions of our nation. 

For a case as polar­izing as Rittenhouse’s, it is only right that the trial is broadcast gavel to gavel. Oth­erwise, we have to rely on main­stream media orga­ni­za­tions who are biased against Rit­ten­house and labeled him a “white supremacist” and “mur­derer” months before the trial.

Amer­icans should be allowed to make their own judg­ments, not rely on Fox News or the Wash­ington Post. 

For the past two months, dis­graced Theranos founder Eliz­abeth Holmes has been on trial in Cal­i­fornia for charges of con­spiracy and defrauding investors and patients about her start-up blood-testing company. 

Cameras are not allowed in the San Jose courtroom. As a CNET article on Holmes’ trial put it: “tele­vision cameras aren’t allowed in the courtroom, so the best way to follow the case will be via reporters in the room taking notes the old-fash­ioned way.”

No thanks. I prefer to come to my own conclusions. 

Oppo­nents to live cov­erage say it impedes a defendant’s chance at a fair trial.

But by watching trials, the people can verify that defen­dants are receiving fair trials. Behind closed doors, this right is pro­tected by a few, but when broadcast, the trial is mon­i­tored by viewers, who can ensure constitutionality.

Plus, the Con­sti­tution pro­tects the right “to a speedy and public trial.” Bringing pro­ceedings to screens across the country ensures this right is secured.

Our nation stands to benefit from increased trans­parency about its justice system. The Annenberg Public Policy Center con­ducted a survey that found only 39% of respon­dents could cor­rectly name the three branches of government. 

Of course, there are cir­cum­stances where livestreaming is not appro­priate. But this should be the exception, not the rule.

Cameras in court­rooms have been a public debate since 1935 when the trial of Bruno Hauptmann — the man even­tually con­victed of abducting and mur­dering aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby son — was heavily dis­rupted by pho­tog­ra­phers standing on tables and blinding attendees with their flashing lights. 

After Hauptmann’s dis­ruptive trial, the American Bar Asso­ci­ation forbade pho­tog­raphy and tele­vision cov­erage of trials.

Since then, laws and lit­i­gation have fought for more public access. In March 2021, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Min­nesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar rein­tro­duced a bill to allow cameras in federal court­rooms, called the “Sun­shine in the Courtroom Act,” which would allow tele­vision cameras in all federal courtrooms. 

“Cameras in our courts fortify the public trust in our nation’s admin­is­tration of justice,” Grassley said in May. 

The Iowa senator is right, and the Rit­ten­house trial rein­forces his point. Amer­icans deserve to trust that pro­ceedings are handled properly and should not rely on biased cor­porate jour­nalism to sum­marize the process.