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Hearing Has Just Wrapped Up on Whether Live Coverage on Television Should be Allowed in Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui

Aired January 9, 2002 - 10:06   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we want to go live to another case, to Virginia, where a hearing has just wrapped up on whether live coverage on television should be allowed in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. He's charged with conspiring with the September 11th hijackers, and is the only person charged in the attacks. News organizations and Moussaoui himself want the trial televised. Prosecutors do not.

Our Susan Candiotti has been in the court and joins us now from the courthouse.

Susan, any decision on whether this trial will be on television?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, no decision is made at this time. After a hearing that lasted just about a little over half an hour, there were arguments on both sides, but in the end, the federal judge involved here, who is the trial judge, Judge Brinkaba (ph), said that she would decide later. She said that she would take it all under advisement, of the very important issues are at play here, and that no decision, she said, is expected before Tuesday, next Tuesday at the very earliest, and she indicated that she will not guarantee that a decision will be forthcoming at that time. Although she indicated that it is very important to move this trial along as quickly as possible.

The arguments went down pretty much as they were laid out in the paperwork filed before this court. Court TV arguing that it is very important, because all of the interest generated in this trial, that the whole world is very interested in it, that it is very important to therefore televise the proceedings, that in fact there is a constitutional right to that, and that it is very important that we have more than in the argument of Court TV, that it is not an adequate substitute for people to hear about the trial based on summations, but rather to observe it in its entirety.

For its part, government attorneys argued, that there is no constitutional right to televise a trial, and that in fact, it is against the rules of criminal procedure to do so.

Additionally, the government argued that there are security concerns to worry about, and that a television camera could possibly impact the testimony of witnesses in this case. The judge asked very pointed questions of both sides, and in true fashion, you couldn't quite tell on which side she would come down because her questions were very pointed in both directions.

But in the end, she said, that she would make up her mind, but not before Tuesday at the earliest.

Also, one last thing, Daryn, I wanted to add. There is a possible alternative filed by a radio network, offering before the court the notion of at least carrying the trial in audio fashion only. The judge said she would also take that under consideration -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Susan, hopefully you can stay with us. We will listen to an attorney for court television making statements. Let's listen in.


LEE LEVINE, ATTORNEY FOR COURT TV: ... a right to observe criminal trials. To be meaningful in this case, that would have to include the right to observe it via television, and that...

QUESTION: What about the concerns of security that the government kept hitting upon?

LEVINE: A trial judge always, in every case, has discretion to make reasonable rulings that make sure that the courthouse and its personnel and witnesses and jurors and others involved in the process are secure. Court TV and C-SPAN have never taken the position that the court does not have that discretion.

We are confident in this case that this judge can make appropriate orders that will both vindicate the public's right to observe this trial on television and take care of any legitimate security concerns that the government brings to her attention.

QUESTION: She seemed intrigued by the audio option. Is there a (OFF-MIKE) audio rather than the video portion?

LEVINE: I think she definitely expressed some preliminary belief that the security concerns would be lessened by an audio only option.

I think that, as I tried to say in the courtroom, that the right to observe is just that, a right to observe, that is to see as well as to hear, and that she should tread slowly in deciding that the right to actually see what goes on in the trial should be given up, even in part, in favor of audio-only coverage.

But there may well be parts of this trial, specific witnesses, where she decides that that witness should not be shown on television, and that what would amount to an audio-only coverage of that testimony would be appropriate.

Given the nature of the security concerns in this case, I don't know that Court TV, C-SPAN are in a position to second-guess legitimate good-faith arguments about specific security concerns.

A generalized security concern, saying that that warrants a per se order that there can be no television coverage of this trial, our argument is that that's unconstitutional. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

LEVINE: I think those were case-by-case decisions made by Court TV on the facts of those particular case. This case, even by those standards, is extraordinary, both in terms of the legitimate interest of all citizens in this country in the outcome of this case and the process that gets us to that outcome and in terms of questions that are likely to be raised around the world about the fairness of this process, and we thought that this was, if not a unique, at least a very important vehicle to make the argument that this case needs to be seen on television.

QUESTION: What about the argument that witnesses and the jury might be -- even if the technology itself is (OFF-MIKE) that it might affect the testimony, what about that argument?

LEVINE: Frankly, in the context of this case, that argument has no force with me. Anybody who testifies in this case is going to be aware that they are involved in a trial of historic magnitude. Any subjective reaction they have to being a witness in this case is going to be a result of that, not the fact that what they say is not only going to be reported in newspapers or reported by journalists on television, but is actually going to be seen on television while they say it.

QUESTION: Do you think the judge would be more favorable toward an audio broadcast as opposed to television -- is that your sense of the courtroom?

LEVINE: I never take anything very much away from judge's questions as an indication of how they're ultimately going to rule. There was a brief submitted to her by a radio entity and that brief was submitted late, so she had questions about the arguments raised in there, which was that radio might be an alternative to television that would ameliorate some of the government's concerns.

QUESTION: What about Moussaoui's conditions? He has agreed that this would be a good idea with several conditions, such as not televising preliminary motions. Do you have any response to Moussaoui's conditions?

LEVINE: Our position is, as it has been in every case that Court TV has televised, that the trial judge has discretion to make orders to ensure that an impartial and fair jury is impaneled in the case.

Judge Brinkema made some comments herself at the arraignment the other day that she was sure she could impanel a jury in this case that would be fair and impartial. I don't think the fact that preliminary proceedings would be on television, in the abstract, changes that in any way.

The judge will certainly have to preside over a jury selection process that is searching, in terms of the questioning of potential jurors to make sure that a fair jury is impaneled, but that happens all the time in highly publicized cases, in which the public has a legitimate interest. And I don't think it should impact on the defendant's right to a fair trial in this case.

OK. Thank you.

KAGAN: We have been listening to Lee Levine. He is an attorney for Court TV, sharing some of the arguments -- actually, let's listen in and see who's speaking now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're an intervener in this case. We joined with Court TV about a week after they filed, and I would say that of course I agree with everything that Lee just said, but would include that...

KAGAN: All right, sounds like this is an attorney for C-SPAN who will have a lot it say, like the attorney from Court TV just said. They are making an argument as to why the trial of Zacharias Moussaoui should be televised. They were in front of a federal judge making that argument. Federal prosecutors do not want this on television.

Let's bring our Susan Candiotti back in. Susan, I interrupted you -- oh, she's gone. OK.

We will get back to Susan Candiotti in a little bit.




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