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Donald Meyers
Donald W. Meyers writes about open-government issues for The Salt Lake Tribune. He is also the site manager of utahsright.com, the Tribune's online database of public records. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists' National Freedom of Information Committee and sits on the board of directors of the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

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Must-see TV: Video cameras going into Utah trial courts

As of Monday, more Utahns will be able to get a look at what happens in Utah’s trial courts.

That is when new rules went into effect, permitting television cameras to record trials in the state’s courtrooms. Utah is the 20th state to permit television cameras in trial courtrooms.

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Previously, only one still camera was allowed in a trial courtroom, while video cameras were permitted at the appellate level.

The rules permit one video camera in a courtroom, with the video to be shared with all other media outlets. The rule also permits people to use tablet computers, laptops and smartphones in courtrooms — as long as they don’t use them to take photographs.

As of Monday, Utah State Courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer received four requests for video cameras in trial courts.

Proponents of the rule believe that televising trials will make the court system more transparent.

"For the first time, the public will be able to actually see and hear what transpires in the courtroom," Salt Lake City media attorney Jeff Hunt told The Salt Lake Tribune. "It will be an unfiltered version of what’s actually going on."

When the Utah Judicial Council voted on the rule in November, three judges — 2nd District Judge Glen Dawson, 3rd District Judge Paul Maughan and 4th District Judge David Mortensen — objected, specifically to the provision that videotaping is presumed to be permitted. The judges said that robbed jurists of discretion to control their courtrooms.

The rule does allow the judge to order the cameras off in sensitive cases or when protected testimony is provided in court — such as when children or sexual assault victims testify.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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