The judge presiding over the trial of two former Fullerton Police Department officers charged in death of Kelly Thomas has ordered all pool cameras out of the courtroom.
It happened because of a dispute over the use of recordings.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackaukas informed Superior Court Judge William Froeberg that a member of his office was denied access to the pool feed by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California (RTNA).
RTNA board of directors member and KFI News reporter Steve Gregory noticed someone recording opening statements Monday by DA Rackaukas and John Barnett, a defense attorney for one of the cops accused in the case.
The man, whom the RTNA later learned was not a member of the media, was told to unplug from the feed.
OCDA spokesperson Susan Kang Schroeder says her employee was told he was not allowed to pull from the media feed because it would be a breach of journalistic integrity.
Schroeder disagrees with the RTNA’s claim, saying, “We filed a media request, having the ability to record like everybody else.”
“The court chose channel 2/9 to be the pool camera, which means they’re responsible for being a neutral person to collect the visual images and disseminate it to anybody the court had granted an order.”
The DA’s office was planning to post the video on its website to show the public what was going on in the court without what Schroeder calls a “media filter.”
RTNA legal counsel Patti Paniccia countered Schroeder’s claims, quoting statutes enacted to keep government entities and the media separate.
“The California Constitution also describes as confidential information the notes that a print reporter would take, and the unedited videotape and audiotape that a broadcast journalist would use,” Paniccia says.
“That kind of information is something that would not be turned over unless a court ordered a subpoena.”
Schroeder says the judge ordered the RTNA to allow the DA’s office to record from the pool feed or cameras would be denied. The association chose the latter, she said.
The RTNA says it has no knowledge of said order.
Judge Foeberg had previously decided pool feeds would be allowed during opening statements, closing arguments, verdict readings, and sentencing.
It is unclear if a resolution will be reached that will allow cameras back into the courtroom for closing arguments.
The trial of ex-Fullerton police officers Jay Cicinelli and Manuel Ramos is expected to last about six weeks.
Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 2011 death of Kelly Thomas. Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.
Here are some statutes about the issues in question:
View the Cameras in the Courts rule here.
The state constitution where, under the last paragraph of Section 2b, "tape" (audio and video) is specifically listed as to be treated as "confidential information" here.