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Cook County waits for Illinois Supreme Court ruling on cameras in courtrooms

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CHICAGO — More than two years after asking the Illinois Supreme Court to allow cameras in Cook County courtrooms, the county's chief judge is still waiting for an answer.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times (http://bit.ly/1ijFDnp ), the court has indefinitely deferred taking action on the application filed by Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans, making the state's most populous county the only one in the state that's applied and not been approved. Cameras have recorded high-profile trials and other court proceedings around the state.

The high court has said some issues still need to be worked out in Cook County, such as whether cameras would be allowed only in one courtroom, one courthouse or just in criminal cases. Court spokesman Joseph Tybor said there is no timetable for a decision, only that it is hoped the county will be approved "sooner rather than later."

Tybor also suggested that part of the delay may be tied to the reservations that some in the county's legal community have with participating in the pilot program already allowed in 14 judicial circuits that cover 40 of the state's 102 counties.

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, said the office has concerns about what impact the cameras could have on the testimony of victims and witnesses, including those who fear for their own safety. But she said the office recognizes that the cameras will ultimately be allowed in the courts, and that the hope is that those concerns be "addressed on a case-by-case basis."

As for Cook County Public Defender Abishi C. Cunningham Jr., he wants no part of cameras.

"Broadcasting criminal cases panders to the basest instincts of the media to publicize salacious and lurid stories and does nothing to enhance the understanding of how the court system works," he said.

Evans, who has said that allowing cameras in courtrooms will give the public a better understanding of the legal system, said he does not know about any "obstacles or hurdles" to Cook County's participation, but that he has been told the court wanted time to study how it played out in court circuits in "smaller media markets."


Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index

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