CHICAGO
01/24/2012 11:27 am ET Updated Jan 24, 2012

Illinois Supreme Court Welcomes Cameras In Circuit Court For The First Time

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday is expected to announce that it will begin to allow cameras recording proceedings throughout the state's 23 circuit courts for the first time.

The decision is part of a pilot program allowing for the recording of trials "on an experimental basis," Joseph Tybor, a spokesman for the state Supreme Court told the Chicago Sun-Times.

As the Chicago Tribune points out, the change could impact a number of high-profile upcoming trials in Illinois, namely those of Drew Peterson and William Balfour, the man accused in the murders of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's three family members.

But beyond a win for media who may benefit from the increased access, Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride said the program was part of an effort to make state courts more transparent.

"The idea behind this is simple. We need to have the courts be more open," Kilbride explained to Illinois Statehouse News. "By having the public keeping an eye on what is going on in the courtroom, it can act as a check in the balance of power."

The new policy, approved unanimously by the state high court earlier this month, comes with caveats, including the exclusion of jurors and potential jurors from being photographed. Further, no more than two television cameras and two still photographers will be allowed in the courtroom at any given time and some victims and witnesses may request that they not be photographed, the Statehouse News reports.

As CBS Chicago reports, Illinois is currently one of 14 states that do not allow cameras to record criminal trials. The Illinois News Broadcasters Association, which had been pushing for the allowance of cameras and audio recordings in the state's courtrooms, said judges were often resistant to the change.

Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, told the Sun-Times the change is a victory for the public.

"Putting cameras in the courtroom and allowing the public to know firsthand what's going on allows them to see how the court system works and to understand in real life what the judicial system does, rather than depending on 'Law and Order,' "Perry Mason' or 'L.A. Law,'" Tompkins said.

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