Trial Lawyer Defends Courtroom Cameras
Bailey Addresses 100 in Law School's Austin Hall
The celebrated American trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey '54 offered a careful defense of the role of television cameras inside American courtrooms in a speech at the Law School last night.
Bailey told the audience of approximately 100 students in Austin Hall that television cameras allow the public to second-guess its legal institutions.
"If America could get a look at what happens inside the courtroom firsthand, everybody would benefit," said Bailey, who gained renown for representing such clients as the Boston Strangler and Patty Hearst.
Only Positive Effects
The trial lawyer said the presence of cameras in courtrooms can have only positive effects. Bailey argued that "the procedure" will only improve, the performance of lawyers, judges and witnesses and could help improve a decaying judicial system.
The controversy over televised trials attracted widespread attention this past year with the extensively publicized trials of William Kennedy Smith and former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Bailey also expressed concern about the incompetence of many attorneys today.
"The average trial lawyer doesn't know what he is doing," he said. "People should take a look."
Bailey discussed the historical context of the courtroom camera controversy, including the American Bar Association's traditional opposition to the concept of television cameras inside the courtroom.
"The law profession is usually very reluctant to change its stripes," he said.
Bailey said the presentation of the Tyson trial by reporters--and not by television cameras--meant that the American public saw a distorted version of the proceedings.
"While the American people was able to watch everything that transpired at the Kennedy Smith trial, it had to rely on a nonlawyer's opinion on what happened" in the Tyson case, Bailey said. he added that reporters tend to distort trial coverage to make it more interesting.
Bailey, who served as a commentator for Court TV during the Smith trial, said that states with good judicial systems should be made examples for others to emulate.
"If Indiana [where the Tyson trial was held] runs a good courtroom, there is no reason why the world should not be able to watch," he said. The state of Indiana does not allow cameras inside its courtrooms.
Bailey said television cameras in the courtroom results in public accountability and forces participants to do a better job.
Bailey said public scrutiny has a tremendous effect on court cases and pointed out that the acquittal rate in all case tried is 20 percent while the acquittal rate in highly publicized cases is 80 percent.