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Video cameras to come to Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Legislature provides funds, orders cameras in court by Sept. 1

AUSTIN, Texas – Video cameras in court have been recording proceedings in the Texas Supreme Court for a decade.

The move to have cameras installed was hailed as a "major breakthrough" by Wallace Jefferson, the high court's chief justice at the time.

"We want our court system to be transparent," Jefferson said. "These are public proceedings."

Jefferson said it's only logical that cameras get installed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"They hear death penalty cases," he said. "They hear some of the most infamous murders, rapes and crimes that impact our communities."

As in the Texas Supreme Court, the cameras will record oral arguments for live viewing or to be archived for future viewing by attorneys and the public.

Whether the proceedings can be recorded for rebroadcast by the media still must be worked out.

"I'd be interested in an experiment to see if it is productive," Jefferson said.

Court proceedings are already being recorded by the media in the lower courts in Bexar County.

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"I don't have a problem with it at all," Texas Criminal Appeals Court Judge Bert Richardson said. "I've never had a problem with cameras in the courtroom."

Richardson allowed news cameras in his court when he served as a district court judge in Bexar County.

"There are some cases that may be interesting, but most of them are over very technical issues that just don't have the soundbites that a real trial does," Richardson said about cameras in the appeals courtroom.

The Texas Legislature provided $436,000 for cameras and equipment.

It is now up to the court and the Texas Bar Association as to who will run the cameras and what equipment will be used.

The Legislature ordered that the cameras be in place by Sept. 1.

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