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Cameras in courtroom show justice at work

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- For years, the only way to see what happened in court was to be in the room.
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- For years, the only way to see what happened in court was to be in the room. Now, you'll be able to see some of the proceedings from your home.

Tuesday was the first day a video camera was allowed to film inside the 6th Judicial Court. Not everyone is happy about the decision.

Some people think having a camera inside could sway witnesses or jurors, but others say this gives us a new opportunity to show what happens inside the courtroom beyond an artist's rendering or mugshot.

Champaign County's State's Attorney Julia Rietz says it won't change the way she or the people in her office do their jobs. She says the bigger challenge is logistics; making sure there's space for camera crews to work without being distracting or in the way of people trying to pay attention.

Tuesday, in court, a former Rantoul teacher pleaded not guilty to charges of distributing harmful material to a minor. Rietz says it's a pretty "procedural" appearance, but the media and courts may need to experiment to find the best way to cover more complicated parts of the judicial process.

Chief Justice Rita Garmin has said bringing cameras into the courtroom will provide more transparency in the state's justice system. At this point, it's still an experimental program.

Last year, the Illinois Supreme Court gave permission for cameras in the courtroom in the 6th District. It includes six Central Illinois counties. 35-counties around the state are part of the pilot program.
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