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Coverage in the courtroom

Published: Monday, April 2, 2012 7:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 2, 2012 7:50 p.m. CDT

OTTAWA/PRINCETON — Though five more counties will now allow cameras in their courtroom, Bureau County is not one of them.

On Monday, a spokesperson for 13th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan said the judge has not made a decision on whether to participate in the pilot program initiated in January by the Illinois Supreme Court to allow news cameras and audio devices in certain courtrooms.

On Friday, Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride announced the 15th Judicial Circuit, which covers Carroll, Jo Davies, Lee, Ogle and Stephenson counties, has been accepted into the pilot program. Already participating in the program are Madison County in the Third Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County in the 21st Judicial Circuit, and Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Whiteside counties in the 14th Judicial Circuit.

In his comments on behalf of the 15th Judicial Circuit, Chief Judge Val Gunnarsson called the acceptance into the pilot program “an outstanding step forward for our local courts.” The 15th Judicial Circuit is a predominately rural area, with multiple small and medium print and radio outlets. The circuit has 17 different courtrooms in five counties, and he intends for him and his circuit judges to meet with media throughout the circuit to discuss unique issues posed by the geographical make-up, Gunnarsson said.

“We are promising our best efforts,” the Chief Judge said.

The Illinois Supreme Court approved the pilot program in January to allow news media cameras and audios in trial courtrooms.

When contacted at that time, the local spokesperson for Chief Judge Ryan said the judge would look at the new program policy and discuss it with the other judges in the 13th Circuit to see if the pilot program was appropriate for the 13th Circuit. No time frame was given as to when a decision, whether or not to apply to the pilot program, would be made, the spokesperson said.

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