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WHAT OTHERS SAY: It's wise to limit visual access in Bustamante trial

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 | 4:22 p.m. CST

Order in the court is paramount.

As members of the media, we would have welcomed — but did not expect — cameras to be permitted at the trial for Alyssa Bustamante.

That possibility was eliminated last week when Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Pat Joyce issued an order moving the trial to the new federal courthouse in Jefferson City. Federal rules prohibit cameras in courtrooms during judicial proceedings.

In a four-page order, the judge said the move was made “due to the heightened interest in this case, the necessity of protecting the litigants and the jurors, and to ensure the integrity of the court process.”

Heightened interest is an understatement.

Inquiries about press coverage have been made by members of the national media, as well as one international organization.

Unusual court cases interest the public and, consequently, attract media attention.

O.J. Simpson was a national sports figure accused of murder; Casey Anthony was a reputed party-goer accused of having killed her young daughter; Dr. Conrad Murray was tried in connection with the death of pop star Michael Jackson.

In the case of Bustamante, her youth and her motivation create curiosity. Accused of murder, she was age 15 1⁄2 when 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten was killed and the body was hidden in a wooded area.

The judge, in her decision to move the trial from the county to the federal courthouse noted that although the trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 30, is expected to last two weeks, the exact duration is unpredictable.

Joyce also said security concerns and media interest would require cancellation of judicial proceedings in the other three divisions within the county courthouse.

Accommodations at the federal courthouse will be expanded to two courtrooms — one for the trial and another for viewing the trial by closed-circuit television.

Gallery passes for 34 members of the public will be made available each day of the trial. Sixteen seats have been set aside for the media and one for a sketch artist.

The Bustamante trial likely will create a media event rarely experienced in Cole County.

The planning and preparations may not satisfy everyone, but they are judicious.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.


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