This week in Peoria County, the murder trial of a former Baptist missionary is the first trial in the county to allow cameras in the court.
Broadcast media share a single camera for video coverage. There also is a single photographer for still shots. The trial is expected to last about a week.
The Illinois Supreme Court launched the cameras-in-court initiative several years ago. Cameras already have been allowed at several murder trials, along with dozens of other trials, elsewhere around the state.
Not in McHenry County, though. The county continues to sit on the sidelines and watch as county after county in the state embraces transparency and change.
We checked again this week, there is no change and no timetable to allow the public new access into public courtrooms in McHenry County.
We had hoped for something different by now. We believe that images and video from McHenry County courtrooms will show the public a criminal justice system that operates in a professional manner as defendants are tried for serious crimes. The result would be great public confidence in the courts, along with great protection for the rights of defendants.
Judges across the state are reporting virtually no problems with the pilot program. From the experience of our sister newspapers in neighboring counties, it’s a smooth process; a few awkward glances the first day from a handful of lawyers, and a couple of bailiffs and clerks wondering aloud about their appearance. We’re not there for them. We’re there to bring the public inside the court proceeding to see and hear for itself.
Despite some high-profile cases, it hasn’t been a circus, and the taxpaying public is better informed on its judicial process.
It’s too bad McHenry County continues to willingly miss the boat on this.