Rittenhouse judge may reconsider allowing live coverage of future trials; media experts say that's concerning
KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Public information and legal experts are reacting to comments the judge made about media during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
On Wednesday, Nov. 10, Judge Bruce Schroeder said all attorneys involved in the trial are reputable and he finds it "shameful" some things that have been said about them.
The judge used harsh words when describing media coverage of the trial. At one point he called some of the coverage "grossly irresponsible."
"I’m going to think long and hard about a live television trial again next time, I don’t know. I’ve always been a firm believer in it because I think the people should be able to see what’s going on, but when I see what's being done, it's really quite frightening," Schroeder said.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said Schroeder's comments are "disappointing."
"I did find it concerning that the judge suggested he may not allow cameras in his courtroom in the future. I don't think that's consistent with state law, and I don't think it's consistent with Wisconsin's tradition of open courts and open government," Lueders said.
Each day of the trial, a few square blocks of Kenosha are covered with cameras, tripods and national reporters dressed for a Wisconsin winter. Millions are able to watch the coverage on-air and online.
"It allows the world to see and comment and learn about what's going on in the courtroom," said Ion Meyn, assistant professor of law at UW-Madison.
Meyn said federal courtrooms have a default rule of no broadcasts allowed, but Wisconsin favors open courtrooms. He said there are several issues to balance with allowing cameras in court.
"On one side, the court says, 'Look, you have a First Amendment right, media.' At the same time, there's the issue of court decorum. There's an issue of making witnesses feel comfortable on the stand. There's the issues of the identity of jurors. There's the issue of actual witnesses themselves who may be vulnerable and don't want to be in front of the camera," he said.
Meyn said there are instances where witnesses' identities would need to be protected, such as when they are victims of sexual assault. To protect their identities or those of the jurors, typically the judge and media will come to informal agreements that they won't film them.
He said cameras help show the performance of attorneys and witnesses.
Lueders said the media has played a vital role in the trial and their role should be respected. He also said the public has a right to see how the court functions.
"Having cameras in the courtroom is a good idea, particularly in a high-profile case (in) which there is a great deal of public interest in what is happening in the courtroom: some of it concerning the actions of the judge himself," he said.