Cameras in the jury room

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is considering a Houston judge’s ruling permitting cameras to film not only the trial, but the jury’s deliberations as well. During voir dire, potential jury members who said they might be influenced by the cameras were excused.

This seems like a really bad idea to me.

  • Rick

What the hell possible rationale is there for this? Surely they don’t mean CourtTV type cameras, right?

Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, and two alternates: bad, bad idea.

No way. No one but the jurors themselves need know what goes on in there—I don’t care if that means they play ping pong for three hours (well, ok, maybe then).

I live in Texas and I consider myself a “good citizen” when it comes to jury duty. I don’t try to get out of reporting to jury duty, I don’t try to get myself excused during voir dire, etc. I’ve been called for jury duty 5 times, and I’ve served on juries twice.

That being said, if there is indication that there will be cameras in the deliberation room, I WILL make it known during voir dire that I will NOT be able to render an impartial verdict. If I get selected for a jury and it turns out when we go to deliberate that cameras are present, there is a very good chance that I will lose the ability to deliberate rationally.

Hold me in contempt of court. I find cameras in the deliberation room contemptuous of me and the justice system.

You forgot to mention that it’s a capital murder trial, Bricker. The CCA has ordered briefing from the parties in the state’s petition for a writ of mandamus. I have every confidence that they will tell the trial judge to knock it off. The trial is on hold in the meantime.

I actually did mention the capital murder aspect in Version 1.0 of the OP, but it vanished into Hamsterland. The above is an abbreviated post that tried to captured the basic idea without three three paragraphs of brilliant exposition that were lost.

I wasn’t sure if this was a straight interlocutory appeal or an application for a writ of mandamus, and I assume they went the writ route (say that three times fast!) because this issue didn’t fall into the statutory area for an interlocutory appeal… yes?

  • Rick

You got it, Rick.

I’m in favor of cameras in the courtroom, since the trial is public anyhow. I would tend to oppose cameras on the jury deliberation, since that’s done in private. Still, it would be interesting to experiment and try to actually determine whether one got more just verdicts that way.

I would be very wary of this. I too favor cameras in the courtroom, except for minors or special circumstances like mob trials and such. A trial should be open with nothing to hide.

But, in the jury deliberations? Seems like a bad idea. It would be interesting to see if they get more convictions or less that way. Put a fake camera in and run a test would prove interesting!

I remember reading in Playboy forum of all places that some jury verdicts have been overturned later on because of poor behavior. Some had flipped a coin to decide the person’s fate, and they successfully argued that this wasn’t a fair trial.

For an experiment, doesn’t one need a control? In this case, what is the “just” verdict?

And isn’t that precisely what the jury is supposed to determine?

I’m actually going to tentatively come down on the other side here. I can think of no overarching reason why jury deliberations should not be videotaped. To me, the purpose of jury secrecy is not because juries whose deliberations are secret are more likely to come to the “just” result, but instead to eliminate any attempts to influence the deliberations while they are going on. If a deliberation is

My opinion is tenative due to these caveats. The first is that if there is a credible threat to the safety of the jurors, then of course keep the cameras out, to hide their identities.
The second, and this will be the real-life kicker, is someone has to determine what is more likely to cause a jury to follow the law, privacy (where a juror can let his/her personal prejudices run amuck) or the public glare (which may cause a juror to tailor his/her verdict to be popular). I don’t know which is the biggest problem.


Who is supposed to be monitoring these cameras?

If it’s the judge, I don’t have a big problem with it. But, if the lawyers get to see it, that just strikes me as wrong.

As a juror in a recent civil liablity suit, we found for the plaintiff, but not for near the amount of money they wanted. We felt it was a pre-existing condition, yada yada, had to have some of us prolific note takers correct the misquotes of some of the other jurors in deliberations. Giving the lawyers access to that would have opened up a can of worms (IMHO) leading to, well I don’t know what it would’ve led to. But the non note taking jurors were thankful we had the info at our fingers and all agreed. Yep, 12 - 0. Still polled us at the reading, tho.

So, my point… To keep things within the law, sure, monitor jurors in a capital case. But only someone without any vested interests. That’s why I think the judge should be the one monitoring, s/he has already had to preside over the rest of the trial.

Why dont we have the juries watch the procedings from a sealed room with video monitors? The judge can watch over them with a monitor to their room and a bailiff.

That would keep their identies secret.

The judge can just swicth off the video cameras for instances where the jury is suppose to ignore like sidebars and such.

It would keep the juries safe from anything strange happening in the court.

Without the explicit public glare, they might be more conducive to following the judges instructions.

Is there a law that states the jury must be physically present in the courtroom?

As far as taping the jury deliberations, I’ll go along with Hamlets assessment…


Well, it worked with 12 angry men.:wink:

That was a fantastic documentary, wasn’t it, Icerigger? Almost as good as the documentary about being a first year at a major New York law firm, The Devil’s Advocate. :wink:


Well (to quote President Ron), given that the question is before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and given that the defendant thinks that it is a good idea because it may act as a restraint on a Texas jury’s blood lust, and given that the district attorney wants no part of it, and no oil company wants it, I would not count on it happening. So there Minty.

I think it’s a very bad idea as well. If I were called for jury duty, I would do everything I could not to be picked. I could not render an impartial verdict if I knew that my deliberations were recorded and possibly viewed by the losing lawyer. I would not relish being sued myself, for any imagined shortcomings I might display in the deliberations. I do like the suggestion of the jury being separate from the courtroom, viewing the proceedings on a video monitor.

Given the rapidly-increasing capacity for computer imaging, I think it’s a very bad idea to keep juries from being physically present during trials. If someone managed to access the monitors…

I think that having cameras observe and record the actions of jurors in the jury room is a bad idea. The idea of them being monitored by the judge is not a bad one though.

Up til now, I have been glad to do my civic duty and do jury duty. However, I don’t think I could do my best with a camera in the room with me and I also think that having the proceedings recorded would open an entire can of worms for lawyers to contest the verdict. Finding and placing a good group of jurors is hard enough to do know, with so many people getting out of doing it or being excused for so many reasons, that I think this would just be one more reason for someone to escape from sitting in the jury box.