Should Cameras Be Allowed in the Courtroom for the Idaho Murders Trial?

Zach Wilkinson/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP

It’s been 10 months since the gruesome murder of four University of Idaho students – Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Kaylee Goncalves – in their off-campus housing unit. Suspect Bryan Kohberger was arrested late last year and had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf in May.

Earlier this summer, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson filed the notice of his intent to seek the death penalty in the accused stabbing case. Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial, which will no longer start as originally scheduled on October 2. But when it does finally begin, there are questions as to what the public will be able to see.

On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by prosecutor Marcia Clark and defense attorney Mark Geragos for a Kelly’s Court to debate the pros and cons of having cameras in the courtroom and whether or not they will be present at this trial.

Where the Idaho Case Stands

Last Wednesday, Second District Judge John Judge heard arguments for and against the presence of cameras in the courtroom. Kohberger’s defense attorney, Jay Logsdon, said the media that has been available thus far (i.e. photos and videos) has been misused and risked his client’s right to a fair trial. “The court, I think, understands our concern about turning this into a spectacle,” he said. “[It] turns it into more of a TV show drama than a court proceeding.” Prosecutors have also asked to have cameras removed from the case, though court filings show they are also open to keeping them under certain restrictions.

The attorney representing the media, Wendy Olson, said news organizations have thus far been following the judge’s orders about photos and videos in the courtroom. She argued the coverage of court proceedings increases public access and understanding of the trial and judicial process. The Goncalves and Kernodle families have also expressed a desire to have cameras present.

As of now, no decision has been made, though the judge said he will “try to figure out and do the right thing for both the public and the parties and the rule of law.”

To Film or Not to Film?

Clark was the lead prosecutor in what is perhaps the most famous televised trial, The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson (a.k.a. The People v. O.J. Simpson). The 1994 criminal trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court riveted the nation and led to many dramatic TV moments. 

At the time, Clark said she was opposed to having cameras present. “The downsides are huge,” she explained. “The problem that you face, of course, is that it turns into a circus.” It also, in her view, has the potential to influence the case. “You wind up having people come forward who just want the limelight and really have nothing to say, or you have people that are afraid of the limelight and have something to say and don’t want to come forward,” she shared. “You have lawyers who are stumping for camera time… and extending things interminably with no real argument to make because they want to be famous; you have prosecutors who probably do the same thing.”

Her mind was changed, however, by Fred Goldman, father of the late Ron Goldman who was murdered alongside Nicole Brown Simpson. “He said the world would never know what the evidence really was,” she recalled. “The world would never bother to read the newspapers after the fact about all of the evidence that we were able to produce – a huge overwhelming amount of evidence of guilt – and he was right.”

For those reasons, Clark has come to embrace somewhat of a middle ground. “I’ve come down on the side of… you allow the cameras in the courtroom when the jury is in the courtroom, so that what is disseminated to the public is what the jury sees,” she said. “But when the jury is not there and you’re having hearings about the evidence that should and should not come in… then you should not have cameras in the courtroom.”

Geragos represented Scott Peterson in the murder trial of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. Peterson was sentenced to death, though that was later overturned. He was re-sentenced to life in prison without parole, and Geragos said one of his biggest regrets in the case was fighting against media access. “I joined the prosecution who did not want cameras in the courtroom… that was one of my biggest mistakes,” he shared. “I wanted the public to see what that trial looked like after the fact.”

He believes public reaction would have been different had they been able to watch it and judge it for themselves. “There were people sitting in New York City commenting on the trial, who had no idea what was going on in the courtroom,” he noted. “If they had seen it, it would not have been the kind of critical mass that ‘he’s guilty.’” 

Even so, Geragos thinks the judge in the Idaho case seems to be on the side of the attorneys. “I think the judge is clearly leaning towards not having cameras in the court,” he concluded, “because it’s a lot to manage for a judicial officer.”

You can check out Megyn’s full Kelly’s Court with Clark and Geragos by tuning in to episode 632 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.