Cameras in the courtroom in Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court has approved cameras in the courtroom for criminal cases in Kankakee County.

Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride of the Illinois Supreme Court and Chief Judge Kathy Bradshaw Elliot of the 21st Judicial Circuit announced that news cameras will be allowed in criminal courts in Kankakee County under a pilot program approved by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

Extended media coverage has already been implemented in the 14th Judicial Circuit in Rock Island.

"The pilot program has been proceeding in the Quad Cities area with the cooperation of the media, judges, courtroom and county personnel for more than a month," Kilbride said. "This will be another step to see if we can carefully balance the goals of greater openness and access with the guaranteed rights of defendants and parties to have fair proceedings."

The Illinois State Bar Association supports cameras in the courtroom in Illinois.

"We are very excited about it, we think it would be a great service to the public because its going to open up the court systems to them. It will allow the entire third branch of government to remove the mystery." John Locallo, President of the Illinois State Bar Association said.

Locallo held continuing legal education seminars in Quincy on Friday and said times and technology have changed.

"We know cameras are different, technology is different. Given the unobtrusiveness of cameras today, eventually you'll see more lawyers be comfortable with it." Locallo said.

Retired Circuit Judge Mark Schuering says he welcomes the program as well, and says he can think of cases that would have benefited from media exposure.

"It's a shame on certain cases there wasn't the availability of some cameras because I think it would have made an impression and given some information to dispel some beliefs or some scuttlebutt out there as far as what the trial was about and what the true facts that came out in the trial were." Schuering said.

Four circuits have applied to participate in the pilot program announced Jan. 24, 2012. The 14th circuit has been approved, and includes Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Whiteside counties. Cameras have been allowed in four proceedings, and Chief Judge Jeffrey W. O'Connor has also granted a request by the media that they be allowed in a trial scheduled for June in Whiteside County for an accused murderer.

Criminal cases in Kankakee County, part of the 21st Circuit have been included in the pilot program. An application from the 3rd Circuit for criminal cases in Madison County, and an application from the 15th Circuit are still pending.