Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cameras get another day in court

May 20 cases involve drug, weapons charges

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John and Mary Duffy watch a murder verdict being delivered April 16.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

John and Mary Duffy watch a murder verdict being delivered April 16.

Manitoba justice officials have scheduled the next batch of cases to be broadcast live as part of a unique pilot project.

Members of the public will get to look in on a federal drug docket later this month when cameras are placed in a provincial courtroom for the first time.

There are currently seven cases scheduled for hearing during the May 20 docket, which begins at 2 p.m. They all involve drug and weapons charges.

Crown and defence lawyers are slated to make submissions that day about sentences in all cases, although it's possible some could be adjourned.

The Free Press will carry a live feed of the docket on our website.

Another Manitoba Court of Appeal hearing has also been set for broadcast. Dakota Smoke was convicted of impaired driving causing death and bodily harm following a trial last year. He was sentenced to 61/2 years in prison.

Smoke is now fighting the sentence, claiming it is harsh and excessive. Lawyers are set to make arguments May 30 beginning at 9:30 a.m. The hearing, which is expected to last about two hours, will be broadcast live.

Last month, an Appeal Court hearing for convicted triple-murderer Jér¥me Labossière was done with cameras in the courtroom. The high court reserved its decision in that case.

As well, a Queen's Bench murder verdict was done on camera last month as the very first case of the pilot project, which will see all three levels of Manitoba courts (provincial, Queen's Bench and Court of Appeal) select cases for broadcast.

The chief judges of their respective courts have heralded the pilot project as a "baby step" aimed at increasing public access to justice and overall transparency in how the court system works.

The top judges will evaluate the project over the coming months to see if it's meeting its goals. In the meantime, it remains open to the media to bring legal applications forward to have a camera in cases they deem worthy of their attention.

It's possible that down the road one courtroom at each level of the court system would become so-called "presumptive" venues, where it's expected cases there will be captured on camera. It's not currently being contemplated these rooms would hear trials or proceedings in which witness testimony is being heard.

-- with files from James Turner

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 B3

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