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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Judge Rules No Cameras in Sniper Trial

Aired December 12, 2002 - 09:50   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to check on a developing story around sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad.
Jeanne Meserve is in Prince William County, Virginia.

Jeanne, hello.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

A trial date has now been set that John Allen Muhammad will go on trial for allegedly taking part in the sniper shootings on October 14th of next year. The judge in this case, Judge Leroy Mallet Jr. (ph) also heard motions today on cameras in the courtroom. He has denied that motion. Cameras will not be allowed in this case. The judge said the need for a fair trial is paramount here. He was afraid witnesses might be intimidated, that there was a possibility they might change their testimony. He also felt it could have an impact on the lawyers and perhaps, too, on the jurors, who he feels must be protected from excess publicity.

Barbara Van Gelder (ph) had argued the case for the media. She represented the radio television and news directors association, the Virginia Press Association, and various media outlets, including CNN. They have proposed that two unobtrusive cameras be placed in the courtroom. They argue the public had a right to know what was going on in this trial, more than this case than any other, because of the very broad impact that the sniper shootings had on the greater Washington area and the national interest which this sparked. She argued that the media is a surrogate for the people in this case, and that it was more accurate for people to see the corporal proceedings in their entirety, rather than seeing the soundbites from the courthouse step.

However, the prosecutors and the defense both argued against it, saying particularly, they were worried about the possible impact on other trials in other jurisdictions that might take place at a later date.

So in short, no cameras in the courtroom for John Allen Muhammad.

Back to you.

KAGAN: Jeanne Meserve, thank you for that update. More on that ahead.

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