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Justices Consider Case For Cameras In SD Court

October 7, 2010, 6:00 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Justices Consider Case For Cameras In SD Court
PIERRE, SD - The decision about allowing cameras in South Dakota's local courthouses is now in the hands of the state Supreme Court. Justices held a public hearing Thursday following a two-year study by an appointed committee.

"From the court's perspective, we want people to know how this system works. And it works if you follow it from the beginning to the end to see what really happens," Justice Judith Meierhenry said.

Circuit Judge David Gienapp of Brookings talked to the justices about his proposal that would allow cameras in the courtroom if the judge, prosecuting attorney and defense attorney all agreed to open their court hearings to cameras.

"It creates an avenue for access without depriving the fair trial of an individual," Gienapp said.

Rapid City defense attorney Tim Rensch spoke out against the use of any cameras. He fears it could interfere with the right of a fair trial. 

"If cameras being in the courtroom can damage that right in any way, damage it at all, then they shouldn't be there," Rensch said.

But members of the media tried to calm those fears. KELOLAND News Assignment Editor Dexter Gronseth is the media coordinator for state Supreme Court hearings. The five justices have allowed cameras to capture their proceedings for the past nine years.

"To try a pilot program for a year, two years, whatever you see worthy. I think you all know it's worked at this level," Gronseth said.

Gronseth asked the high court to consider opening up county courtrooms to cameras for a test period to help the court system see that cameras can work on the circuit level as well.

Gronseth argues it will give people in South Dakota a better idea about what really happens in the courthouse.

"Right now, we have the perp walk and that's all we have to show. If we're in a courtroom, we can hear the testimony and we can hear what's talked about," Gronseth said. 

The justices will consider Thursday's testimony along with the report from the appointed committee before they make any final decisions on allowing cameras in South Dakota's local courthouses.

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