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Minnesota Supreme Court extends courtroom camera pilot project

ST. PAUL—The Minnesota Supreme Court has approved the extension of a pilot project allowing for the limited use of cameras in courtrooms.

The court issued an order on the matter Tuesday, July 3.

The pilot program began Nov. 10, 2015, allowing for audio, video footage and photography in criminal cases after a defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, such as at sentencing hearings.

Under the pilot program, cameras are not allowed in sexual assault and domestic violence cases or in cases when victim statements are given unless the victims consent. And cameras aren't allowed earlier during a trial except in some circumstances.

The pilot program was monitored by the high court's criminal rules committee with assistance from state court administration.

Of the 79 instances in which media requested to use cameras, they were allowed in almost 50 cases. A majority of the criminal rules committee found the general impact of coverage to be neutral or positive, according to the order approving the pilot program.

Conditions of the pilot program struck "the appropriate balance between the fundamental right of a defendant to a fair trial and the judicial branch's commitment to the fair, open and impartial administration of justice," according to the order.

Proponents of cameras in courtrooms — such as the news media — argue that they give the public a better understanding of the justice system. Opponents counter that they may keep victims from reporting crimes or participating in criminal proceedings.