Avatar of admin

by

Whitey Bulger Trial Points to Value of Cameras in Federal Courtrooms

August 19, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

A week later, I’m still bitter about missing the most fascinating and colorful trial of the decade, the racketeering case against James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish mobster who terrorized South Boston for two decades, before evading capture for another 16 years. Last Monday, a federal jury found Bulger guilty of all but one of 33 racketeering counts against him.

The Bulger story represents “the worst case of corruption in the history of the F.B.I.,” says former Boston federal prosecutor Michael D. Kendall, “a multigenerational, systematic alliance with organized crime, where the F.B.I. was actively participating in the murders of government witnesses.”

But unless you’re from Boston, you probably missed it. That’s largely due to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53, which since 1946 has barred “broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.”

Whatever justification the federal ban once had, today it rests on the insulting notion that you’re not mature enough to handle what goes on in the courtrooms you pay for.”

Most states have allowed cameras for decades, and the evidence suggests they’ve had positive effects. Whatever justification the federal ban once had, today it rests on the insulting notion that you’re not mature enough to handle what goes on in the courtrooms you pay for.

Admittedly, some of my bitterness stems from the base motivation of wanting to see the show: to hear Patricia Donahue, the widow of a Bulger victim, shout: “You’re a coward,” and Whitey’s snarl: “Do what yas want with me.” Or this exchange with FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick: “Q: ‘Have any of your medications affected your memory?’ A: ‘Not that I recall.’ “

Still, as the Boston Herald’s Margery Eagan insists, the Bulger story — where it’s hard to tell the gangsters from the G-Men — is “a civics lesson worthy of us all,” a “teachable moment” about federal corruption. Alas, our government conspired with Boston’s Irish Mafia for 20 years and all we got was this lousy sketch.

The camera ban treats “taxpayers … like 10-year-olds,” Eagan argues, and for no good reason. In 1991, the Federal Judicial Center evaluated a pilot program allowing cameras in the trial courts of six districts. They reported “small or no effects of camera presence on [the] participants, … courtroom decorum, or the administration of justice.”

In a 2010 article, federal judge Alex Kozinski noted that “judges overwhelmingly believed that cameras in the courtroom helped to educate the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.