The murder trial of Dr. Martin MacNeill in Provo’s 4th District Court is the first ever in the state to be broadcast and streamed live by the media. For proponents of open government, it is another milestone reached by the court’s recent rule change to allow video and audio recordings inside the courtroom.
The Utah Courts began allowing media to bring recording equipment into the courtroom last April, but it wasn’t until this trial that any live coverage had been offered. Normally, a member of the local media would be allowed to bring in a camera and provide footage for any other interested media outlet. But for the MacNeill trial, the courts approved the national program In Session to bring in their cameras. Utah Courts spokesperson Nancy Volmer says if it goes well, live broadcasts from inside the courtroom could become more common.
“It is quite entailed though, to do a live transmission requires a lot of technology and a set-up that, a lot of times, the local media don’t have the ability to do," she says. "It takes a lot of resources to have someone in court from gavel to gavel."
In Session is using two remote cameras inside the courtroom and transmitting the signal live over satellite. This allows local media outlets to also use the footage and stream it live over the internet. Volmer says the court’s hope is that by being more transparent the public will become better educated about the judicial system.
“I do think that it allows the public, really, to see the judicial process first hand, they really have a front row seat to court proceedings," she says. "So, rather than relying on what is portrayed on TV dramas the public can view and decide for themselves what happens in court.”
Testimony in the MacNeill trial is expected to last until mid-November.