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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Robert Shapiro

Aired August 18, 2003 - 20:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Cameras will not be allowed in the courtroom next month for a hearing in the murder trial of Scott Peterson. A California judge made the ruling today, citing sympathy for the victims' family and the passionate nature of the case.
So what effect will the ban have? Well, our next guest is no stranger to high profile cases and cameras in the courtroom. Former O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro joins us live from Los Angeles.

Always good to see you, Bob. Welcome back.

ROBERT SHAPIRO, ATTORNEY: Thank you, Paula. Nice to be with you.

ZAHN: Thanks.

Let's talk about the judge's rationale for his decision today. He basically said to the extent -- quote -- "that the television coverage would transform this very serious criminal trial into a reality television show, the court is reluctant to allow it." There you see the statement on screen.

What is the judge's statement say about journalistic integrity or the public's right to know, Bob?

SHAPIRO: You know, judges are in the most difficult position when there are cameras in the courtroom because they become the most vulnerable person themselves. And unfortunately, they're in a position where they cannot defend themselves in any way if there is criticism.

On the other side of the coin, however, my belief is that the public in America has a right to be in courtrooms and all parties have the right to a public trial.

And in a case like this, where you have a very small courtroom, where journalists are going to fill up a large portion of the courtroom, the rest will be family, friends of people involved, so the public will have very, very limited access to be there and to see firsthand, without interpretation by others what is really taking place in this case that has gathered the attention of the nation.

ZAHN: So you obviously don't support this move by the judge. Ultimately, what impact does it have on the prosecution's case and the defense's case? SHAPIRO: I think it's greatly overrated. The fact that cameras would have in the courtroom -- I think initially some people may be a little more anxious, but people are anxious in these types of cases under any circumstances.

The only real significance that I have ever seen with these cases is that people tend to care a little bit more about their personal appearance.

ZAHN: Besides that, what else might change in strategy here?

SHAPIRO: Nothing will change in strategy. These cases are certainly very, very well researched. They're very well -- very, very well planned and the lawyers will be prepared. Whether or not this case is televised or not televised, I don't think it is going to have any effect whatsoever on the ultimate issue as to whether or not Mr. Peterson is or is not convicted of these crimes.

ZAHN: And no matter whether there are cameras in the courtroom or not, you certainly have to concede that clearly this is going to put Laci Peterson's family dead center in the spotlight once again.

Walk us through what you think they'll have to endure through this process.

SHAPIRO: They're going to be enduring the same thing whether or not there are cameras in the courtroom, and that is the media will be hounding them from the minute they leave their house to the time they return to their house. We'll be talking to their neighbors, finding out anything and everything they can about how their emotions are and how they're feeling under these most trying and tragic circumstances. That will not change whether or not there are or are not cameras in the courtroom.

The only thing that the judge said which I agree with is that if the camera is allowed to editorialize with a producer behind it, and show not only the witnesses, but the lawyers, the judge, and then the reaction of the accused, then I think the judge's point is well taken. However, my belief has always been that if there is a fixed camera that focuses on one person and one person only, and that is the witness, that's the only person the jury is listening to, that's the only person everyone should be concerned with. If that happens, I think the right to a public trial would be well served by having a fixed camera in the courtroom.

ZAHN: Bob Shapiro, always making it very clear where he stands on the issues. Thanks again for joining us tonight.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome, Paula. Thank you.

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