Judge says media scrutiny increases transparency - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Judge says media scrutiny increases transparency

Judge Chris Craft Judge Chris Craft

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The judge in the Noura Jackson murder trial spoke to Action News 5 Monday about the heavy media coverage of the case. 

Trial watchers were hooked when WMCTV.com streamed the trial live on the web, and thousands followed WMCTV.com's real-time blog of the proceedings.  The Honorable Chris Craft, the judge in the case, said courtroom coverage has leaped light years during his time as a judge.

In the Noura Jackson trial, Craft said, witnesses who testified about drug use felt the brunt of the increased coverage.

"There are all kinds of people who knew all these kids, and they were all actively involved and watching the testimony on TV and the live stream that y'all were running," he said, " and it's embarrassing."

Action News 5 was not alone in its coverage.  The Commercial Appeal also assigned a staff writer to blog the trail, while another media outlet used Twitter - a social networking and micro-blogging website - to cover happenings in the courtroom.

Craft said the blogging and courtroom cameras let the public to see justice in action.

"It's like turning up a rock over and looking at the underside and letting the light shine," he said. "It tends to be a cleaner environment."

Craft added the increasing coverage puts a burden of increased accuracy on the media.

"Jurors will be in here already knowing things about the case that are wrong -  that aren't true - and we have to make sure that they unlearn that," he said.

And the internet has only increased the media's potential role in a case.

"I can pick a jury, and they can go home and get on the internet and find out all about the case," Craft said.

The ease and availability of coverage in the era of the internet is not always popular with trial participants.

"None of the attorneys in this case wanted cameras in the courtroom," Craft said. "They all objected - state and defense."

But, Craft said, the scales of justice must prevail and that includes freedom of speech.  Craft said he thinks court coverage will never be the same, but he believes the transparency will help people find trust in the system.

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