The next time you step into an Illinois courtroom, you may be on camera.
In January, the Illinois Supreme Court announced it would allow video recording of Circuit Court for the first time in the state's 194-year history. The pilot program is taking place across the state on a case-by-case basis. Chief Circuit Judges can decide whether or not to allow the cameras in their courtroom at this time.
Wednesday, Quincy media took part in an Illinois Appellate Court proceeding at Quincy University. The school's Pre-Law Center was designed for not only a mock trial, but to serve as classrooms and facilities to practice LSATS. Here, there's even opportunity for scholarships. Wednesday, QU's mock trial court played host to oral arguments from the Fourth Appellate District out of Springfield.
These proceedings gave local judges a look at how reporters and cameras in the courtroom would handle a Circuit Court proceeding. Judges in the 8th Judicial Circuit, which includes Adams County, have not given the greenlight to courtroom cameras just yet.
"This is my first experience with it. It seemed to work pretty well. We talked about it amongst ourselves on the court and conferred with the Supreme Court. We think it's good for the public to have access to the courts as long as it doesn't interfere and we're reasonable about what goes on in the courtroom," Hon. John Turner said.
Illinois has allowed news cameras in the Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court since 1983. The Supreme Court also posts audio and video of all oral arguments on its website the same day they occur. Do you like the idea of cameras in area court rooms? Weigh in on this below or on our Facebook page here .
Meanwhile, Wednesday's arguments at QU were heard in front of Appellate Judge John W. Turner , of Lincoln, the current president of the Illinois Judges Association, Carol Pope , of Petersburg, and Appellate Judge Robert W. Cook , of Quincy. Appellate Prosecutor Anastacia Brooks is also a Quincy Notre Dame graduate.
"They are real cases, involving real people and real serious situations," Turner said.
One case involved a DUI resulting in a fatality, the other centered around inadmissible evidence in a first degree murder case.
Oral Argument #1: People v. Henson, 4-11-0835Deanna Henson pleaded guilty, in Sangamon County, to one count of aggravated DUI, with the agreement open as to sentencing. Henson was driving a vehicle on October 16, 2006, which crossed the center line and hit another vehicle. Four individuals were taken to the hospital. The passenger in Henson's car, Deanna's best friend, died. Henson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.146. Henson was sentenced to four years in prison. She asserts the trial court failed to consider her physical and mental conditions under section 11-501(d) (1) (F) of the vehicle code, which requires a sentence of 3-14 years, "unless the court determines that extraordinary circumstances exist and require probation." (cited by Quincy University)
Oral Argument #2: People v. Harper, 4-11-0880Defendant was charged with four counts of first degree murder in the death of Timothy Shutes in Vermilion County. The trial court suppressed a video recording under section 103-2.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Thirty minutes and twelve seconds of the video was inaudible, The state took an interlocutory appeal. Section 103-2.1 states that a custodial interrogation statement "shall be presumed to be inadmissible" unless "the recording is substantially accurate and not intentionally altered." The presumption of inadmissibility may be overcome by evidence that "the statement was voluntarily given and is reliable." The state argues the trial court erred in concluding the custodial interview was too untrustworthy and unreliable for admission into evidence. (cited by Quincy University)
"This gives them an idea of what goes on in a appellate court and then they can compare that to a trial court which is totally different," Turner said.
"This is the first time I've seen a full on oral argument where it was interactive with the judges," Sara Mares, a QU senior said.
"Everything else is just reviewing old cases. This is the first real world experience on the appellate level," Kevin Hahn, a QU senior said.
"I couldn't have hand-picked a better two cases for our review," Schuering said. "This is an exceptional opportunity."
"I think if anyone's considering going to law school, to do the mock trial, because I had never considered it, wanted it but I did it and now I'm hooked. And now we have a great facility that we can continue to practice in and build the Pre-Law program here," Mares said.