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Tucson Child Murders: Cameras allowed in trial

But live transmissions not permitted
Posted: 7:14 PM, Jan 13, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-13 21:14:50-05
2020-01-13 Clements media hearing-Judge Bernini.jpg
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2019-09-24 Clements montage.jpg
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2018-09-24 Clements Arraignment-Maribel2.jpg

TUCSON, Ariz. - There will be TV cameras in the Tucson Child Murders trial.

Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini has denied an effort to block video coverage of the murder trial of Christopher Clements.

Clements is charged in the death of 6 year old Isabel Celis -- and 13 year old Maribel Gonzales.

Until small, backpack devices able to transmit video came along in the past few years it just wasn't practical to bring you a court case live as it happened.

But just last week KGUN9 used one of these to go on Facebook with hours of live coverage of Clements in court in Maricopa County.

You couldn't do that with a live truck. The backpack transmitters work anywhere we can get a good cell signal.

Judge Bernini ruled TV stations will not be allowed to be live from court for Clements trial but she reluctantly agreed to allow cameras to record the trial for on-air and on-line use later.

Attorneys for Clements defense argued cameras would impair his chances for a fair trial.

Prosecutors argued cameras could violate the privacy of victim families.

KGUN9 and another Tucson station brought in attorneys to argue to keep the trial open to cameras.

Judge Bernini asked KGUN attorney Daniel Arellano why the station would want to live stream the trial on the internet.

Arellan said, “I think it goes to facilitate public access. I think the courts recognize that the public has an interest in monitoring court proceedings and it goes to, I think really monitoring our democracy and I think that's something that the public has an interest in doing and live streaming is a very effecting way of facilitating that."

Clements attorney Eric Kessler complained media coverage has been one-sided, favored the prosecution and has sometimes been wrong.

"That kind of pre-trial publicity does not serve justice and does not serve to foster a fair trial in terms of a jury pool that has not been unduly tainted."

Prosecutors also argued cameras in court would invade the privacy of family members testifying about the loss of their children.

Judge Bernini will allow cameras to record in the Clements trial but not transmit live. She said she might forbid video of witnesses who object to being on camera.

"It is something the courts here have been forced to accommodate because of the Arizona Supreme Court rules and case law that interpreted it but it is not something we need to be happy about."

To keep cameras as low profile as possible, for many years the rule for cameras in court has been one camera only---on a tripod, not moving around. To allow just one camera, the photographer who is taking the video is required to share it with other stations.

Clements trial is still more than a year away. It's set for February 2021.