SPRINGFIELD – Nicholas Sheley is accused of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri in 2008.
He’s been convicted of one of the murders, and is scheduled to stand trial in September in Whiteside County in northwestern Illinois for the killing of 93-year-old Russell Reed of Sterling.
When the trial begins, anyone who is interested will be able to view much of the proceedings because a video camera will broadcast it. The Sheley trial is expected to be the first big test of Illinois’ pilot program allowing still and video cameras in circuit courts.
It also will be a great moment for transparency in the state’s judicial system.
The presiding judge in the Sheley case, Chief Judge Jeffrey O’Connor of the 14th Judicial Circuit, discussed the pilot program Friday at the Illinois Press Association’s annual convention in Springfield.
O’Connor is a strong supporter of allowing cameras in courtrooms. He said because of early successes, it is just a matter of time before all circuit courts in the state – including the 22nd in McHenry County – will allow cameras.
“It’s overdue given the successes across the country,” he told a group of journalists attending the panel discussion.
The Illinois Supreme Court announced the pilot program in January and selected the 14th Circuit as the testing ground. The 14th Circuit includes Whiteside, Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. Since then, 11 other counties have joined the program, including Boone County just west of McHenry County.
Some pretrial hearings in the Sheley case already have been videotaped. You can view one of them at www.saukvalley.com/video. Sauk Valley Media is owned by Shaw Media, parent company of the Northwest Herald.
We’re excited for the program to expand into McHenry County. While there’s no date yet for allowing cameras in our courtrooms, Chief Judge Michael Sullivan and I have talked a couple of times about it, and he said he’s working with other stakeholders about moving forward. The Northwest Herald is ready to work with him.
Allowing the videotaping of court proceedings gives the public a better understanding of how the judicial system works. States across the country have allowed cameras in courtrooms for years, even decades in some cases.
We’re pleased Illinois is catching up.
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Overwhelming accolades: I’ve got to take a moment to congratulate all of our fine journalists and thank them for their hard and impressive work.
The Illinois Associated Press Editors Association and the Illinois Press Association presented their awards for their separate journalism contests while I was in Springfield. In short, the Northwest Herald cleaned up.
Combined, we took home 64 total awards, including 24 firsts. That’s more than ever before. And the awards run the gamut, from investigative reporting, to breaking news reporting, to feature writing, to sports reporting, to design and graphics, to photography, to headline writing and, well, so on.
Senior Web Producer Adam Nekola, who is responsible for many of the great Web projects you see at NWHerald.com, was named AP’s Innovator of the Year for his work on Election Central, a user-friendly database that warehouses all of our great pre-election content, including candidate questionnaires and video interviews.
Our October series, “Housing Road Map: A Survival Guide,” won five awards across the two contests. We took the top two awards in IPA’s Community Service category for “Housing Road Map” and “My McHenry County: Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” a February 2011 project highlighting the special work of dozens of McHenry County volunteers.
I could go on, but I simply don’t have the space.
I don’t say thank you enough to the great staff we have here, but I do so now.
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Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. I’ve been a father for more than 11 years now, and even though my two kids test me from time to time – OK, pretty much daily – I wouldn’t trade a moment of our time together for anything.
Not for a Cleveland Browns Super Bowl (have you ever seen those last four words typed together like that?)
Or a Cleveland Indians World Series.
Or even for front row tickets to a Neil Young and Crazy Horse sh... well, there’s very little I’d trade it for, anyway.
Have a great day, dads. Thanks for being such an important part of your kids’ lives.
• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at email@example.com