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The Maryland State House. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Md. committee kills cameras-in-courtroom bill

A bill to allow the media to film and broadcast criminal sentencing proceedings, which was criticized by judges, attorneys and victims’ rights advocates, received an unfavorable committee report Thursday.

Proposed by Del. Frank Conaway Jr., D-Baltimore City, House Bill 81 would have permitted media outlets to file a written request at least 24 hours prior to a hearing to request to film it. Opponents said that did not permit prosecutors and defense attorneys time to inform witnesses and file objections to the presence of a camera.

Conaway said the measure’s intent was to provide transparency in the judicial process, but at a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 3, Baltimore City District Judge Nathan Braverman said the bill was not about educating the public but allowing the media to broadcast the “most juicy” cases and their “lurid details.”

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger also expressed concern that media outlets would only seek images of crying family members and other emotional scenarios rather than attempt to fairly depict the sentencing process.

The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center filed written opposition testimony which claimed the law could have a chilling effect on victims’ right to give impact statements at sentencing.

“Crime victims are not mere witnesses whose lives and circumstance of being being thrown in the criminal justice system should be paraded on mass media or the internet,” the testimony states.

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