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Cameras Will Not be Allowed in Sniper Trial

Aired December 12, 2002 - 10:00   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: A hearing has just concluded for Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. Let's get the latest now on the judge's ruling. Our Jeanne Meserve stands by now in Manassas, Virginia.
Hello, Jeanne, what's the word?


If you and others had hoped to follow this case on television the way you did the O.J. Simpson case and other prominent trials, you will not be able to do so. Judge Leroy Mallet (ph) Jr. has just denied motion for cameras in the courtroom. The judge argued that in this case, a fair trial was paramount, and he expressed concern that the impact that cameras may have on witness testimony, and also on the jurors, and also possibly on the lawyers.

Now, the case for the motion for cameras had been brought by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the Virginia Press Association, and various other news outlets, including CNN. An attorney representing those interests argued today that the public right to know in this case was unlike any other case, because the sniper events had such a broad impact. So many people in this area, she argued, were victimized by those sniper shooting, and so they made the case, saying that the media in this case was a surrogate for the people, and it was more accurate for the public to be able to see the entire case played out in the courtroom than it was for people to see excerpts for soundbites that might be uttered on the steps on the courthouse.

Now, both the prosecution and the defense argued against cameras in the courtroom. Perhaps the last time those two sides will agree on anything. They argued that would it have a deleterious affect on the jurors, on the witnesses, on the lawyers. Other people who have studied this matter all say it might have the a negative impact on the judge. In the end, the judge concurred with the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, denying the motion for cameras in the courtroom.

Also today, a date set in the trial for John Allen Muhammad. He will go on trial on October 14th of next year.

Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: All right, good deal. Thanks, Jeanne, we appreciate that. Jeanne Meserve reporting live for us from Manassas, Virginia for a story she covered here quite extensively on this network. And if you're familiar with that story as you should be, you've watched the news at all, one of the most horrifying moments of the sniper attacks was the shooting of a 13-year-old boy outside of his school. This hour, that youngster is going to make and appearance for the first time in public, and he'll be doing so with some very important company, first lady Laura Bush.

Our national correspondent Bob Franken sets the stage for us. Let's go to him now in Washington.

Hello, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What a wonderful contrast to the events that day when we were out at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Prince George's County. A 13-year-old boy was shot with a brief moment of losing his aunt. Incredible work by his aunt and by the medical team that resulted in the child who is recovering. It's a slow recovery. The bullet did terrible damage, but the best sign of his recovery is the first lady, who likes to be present for good news, is going to be make her tour of the hospital, and is going to be meeting a very special guest, our 13-year-old, the one who we've never seen, who we're about to see apparently, and we'll going to find out his name.

And we're going to see and hear the results of a story that of course on the one hand showed the depth of the human, the darkness of the human condition, but of course, we are going to also see a story of an ongoing recovery, really a remarkable recovery, Leon, which is going to show us also the best part of the human condition, one of a child who's spunk and love from his family has meant that he is going to recover, even as the wheels of justice turn in the sniper story.

HARRIS: Bob, I can't wait to see this kid. This has got to be some kind of picture that we will see this morning. Are you surprised, as I am, that even as this late day, that we still don't know this guy's name?

FRANKEN: No, as a matter of fact not. The family asked about it. The media, for the most part, have honored requests like that. You can certainly understand why. The family, of course, has been by his side. The fact we didn't know his name didn't stop the community from this massive outpouring of support. So, no, I am not surprised at all.

As a matter of fact, if anything, I am surprised that he will finally allow himself to be identified. The people at the school, for instance, who might have known his name, have not said anything, but frankly, we haven't made a big deal out of asking.

HARRIS: Good, I like to hear that kind of thing, and I am sure the public does as well.

Thanks, Bob. Bob Franken in Washington.


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