Media lawyer weighs in on Idaho judge’s first official denial of TV cameras: ‘It’s a bad idea’
Royal Oakes, the attorney who convinced a judge to allow TV cameras to broadcast the O.J. Simpson trial, reacts to Idaho Judge John Judge’s first official denial of a media outlet’s request to film the Bryan Kohberger proceedings.
Latah County District Judge John Judge has officially denied his first request for TV cameras in court after a November order in which he said he would take control of video of the proceedings against student murders suspect Bryan Kohberger.
The request came from the Spokane, Washington, TV station KXLY, which asked the court for permission to take video and still photos of the 29-year-old Kohberger’s upcoming hearing on Jan. 26.
“Denied,” the judge wrote, attaching a copy of his Nov. 17, 2023, order in which he granted Kohberger’s request to remove media cameras from the courtroom but said the court would stream the proceedings on its own.
“It is the intense focus on Kohberger and his every move, along with adverse headlines and news articles, that leads the Court to conclude that continued photograph and video coverage inside the courtroom by the media should no longer be permitted,” Judge wrote at the time.
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Bryan Kohberger, center, who is charged with murdering four University of Idaho students in November 2022, sits with two of his attorneys, Anne Taylor, left, and Jay Logsdon, during a hearing at Latah County District Court in Moscow, Idaho, on Sept. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren/Pool)
“That’s the whole idea, for people to be able to judge demeanor, how people are feeling, what they’re saying, and you can’t do that if it’s really a remote.”
Judge is expected to livestream future hearings on his YouTube channel.
Royal Oakes, who successfully argued for TV cameras inside the O.J. Simpson murder trial, told Fox News Digital it is a “bad idea” to take control of the courtroom coverage away from professional news crews.
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O.J. Simpson is shown during his murder trial on June 21, 1995, in Los Angeles. (Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)
“It’s a little bit like saying, ‘Well, you can film the football game but only in the nosebleed seats at the very top and one of the end zones,’” he said. “You’re not going to get the nuances. That’s the whole idea, for people to be able to judge demeanor, how people are feeling, what they’re saying, and you can’t do that if it’s really a remote.”
The public has an interest in criminal court proceedings, he said, especially with taxpayers footing the bill.
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“It’s kind of like that old Ronald Reagan line from his campaign, ‘I paid for this microphone, Bill,’” Oakes said. “We paid for this courtroom. We’re entitled to see our judicial system at work.”
Alex Murdaugh is shown during his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Feb. 24, 2023. (Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
As Fox News Digital has reported, public records revealed that just part of Kohberger’s defense cost taxpayers more than $270,000 in the first three quarters of 2023.
In his November order, Judge accused the media of violating his requests not to exclusively zoom in on Kohberger’s face and not to record before or after court is in session.
Idaho law does not allow the media to appeal Judge’s denial, Oakes said. But the court could have other remedies besides seizing control of the cameras.
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“There’s really no reason to prefer an automatic, installed court system camera as opposed to professionals who know how to do things,” he told Fox News Digital. “Now, the court seems to be unhappy that some of the rules were violated, fine. Then bar the people who are breaking the rules, but let the public see a professionally produced courtroom scene.”
Kohberger is charged with fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students on Nov. 13, 2022, in a 4 a.m. ambush in the rental home where three of them lived: Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, both 21, and Xana Kernodle, 20. The fourth victim, Ethan Chapin, 20, was spending the night with his girlfriend, Kernodle, in her room and lived 200 yards away in the Sigma Chi fraternity house on campus.
Madison Mogen, top left, smiles on the shoulders of her best friend, Kaylee Goncalves, as they pose with Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle and two other housemates in Goncalves’ final Instagram post, which was shared the day before the four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death. (@kayleegoncalves/Instagram)
All four victims had been stabbed multiple times. Some were asleep at the start of the massacre. Investigators say there was a knife sheath with the suspect’s DNA on it under Mogen’s body.
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Kohberger, who turns 29 this week, was studying for a Ph.D. in criminology at the neighboring Washington State University at the time of the crime. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice from DeSales University in Pennsylvania.
He declined to enter a plea at his arraignment in May. Judge entered not-guilty pleas on his behalf on four charges of first-degree murder and another of felony burglary. He could face death by firing squad if convicted. Prosecutors have asked for a trial to take place over six weeks this summer.
Michael Ruiz is a reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @mikerreports