A historic first in McLean County Circuit Courts; reporters were allowed to use cameras and microphones to document proceedings during a pre-sentence hearing in a murder case. Electronic media are slowly being allowed in to Illinois courtrooms under a State Supreme Court order creating pilot programs for enhanced coverage. Most states have allowed the practice for years. McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers observed reporter behavior during the hearing in the Misook Nowlin murder case.
"I think it went fine. Over time things are gonna get a lot more streamlined. There's probably going to be circumstances where people realize that maybe we don't need to have duplication of efforts and we can have fewer people."
Chambers says a remaining question is how some witnesses will perform in front of cameras.
There's gonna be some people who just having a single camera might have an impact on them. There will be some who if you have five cameras pointing at them it's not going to change the way they are doing it at all."
Chambers says that issue can be handled on a case by case basis and each judge can decide when cameras will be allowed. Assistant Public Defender Brian McIldowney says the heightened coverage did not distract him.
"Personally, I believe it is a good thing. I think that what takes place in the courtroom should be open to the public, should be accessible to the people even who are not physically able to come here."
McIldowney and Chambers say enhanced coverage might prove educational to a public that now only sees courtrooms through fictional television shows. 23 other counties in the state now participate in the pilot program authorized by the State Supreme Court. During the hearing, convicted murderer Misook Nowlin argued that her attorneys were ineffective in rebutting allegations she strangled her mother in law, Linda Tyda.
"I didn't have a chance to do anything"
Judge Robert Frietag disagreed with Nowlin's allegations that her attorneys failed to present some evidence and witnesses. Freitag says trial tactical decisions belong with lawyers not defendants.
"Those things that you have talked about today, things about the check that you wrote to the victim, about your divorce attorney coming in to talk about how your marriage was in bad shape and so forth; those are all things that in the opinion of your attorneys would not have helped your defense because they would have been used by the state against you to argue motive and other things"
Judge Freitag noted Nowlin testified to some of her own points during the trial. And Defender McIldowney says Nowlin's trial was a difficult one.
"There were a lot of limitations in this case that were theresult of the defendant's own conduct. the defendant's own statements were primarily used against her in this trial and there was nothing I could do to prevent that from coming into evidence."
Judge Freitag also noted Nowlin's claim that she needed a translator during her trial does not square with her own work as a translator or the fact she did not request a translator in other court cases. Nowlin's sentencing hearing is now set for March first.
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