Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/4/2009 (4587 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Wally Oppal said he'll think about an experiment to allow cameras in court, adding that televised legal proceedings -- including the inquiry into the Taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski -- may help people gain a better understanding of the justice system.
His comments came after judges in Manitoba decided to form a committee to consider allowing cameras in their courtrooms.
However, cameras are the tip of the technological iceberg, and the whole range of social media now must be part of the discussion.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and blogging have infiltrated the legal system and are far greater dangers than conventional media ever were.
There are a number of recent examples from across Canada.
Those interested can follow up-to-the-second updates through the micro-blogging service, Twitter, from those watching London, Ont.'s grisly Bandidos biker-gang murder trial.
Bans on publication of Toronto's salacious trial of the girlfriend who told her boyfriend to murder her rival were completely ignored by friends of the defendants, who posted and uploaded information about court proceedings without regard for the law -- or concern about tainting witness testimony.
In fact, the use of technology by the accused was even a foundation of the Crown's case: they called or messaged each other some 25,000 times over four months.
Last month, a juror in a big drug trial in Florida admitted to doing Internet research on the case, violating the judge's instructions and long-standing legal rules.
Eight fellow jurors confessed to doing the same thing, and the judge declared a mistrial -- perhaps the first "Google" mistrial.
The use of devices such as BlackBerrys and iPhones for gathering, receiving and distributing information raises disturbing problems for judges and the courts -- far more than allowing old-fashioned cameras.
Judges can give clear instructions to jurors and witnesses to refrain from reading or viewing media accounts of a case, but such warnings regularly fail.
Defence lawyers in the federal corruption trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator, Vincent J. Fumo, demanded the judge declare a mistrial because a juror similarly posted updates on Twitter and Facebook.
But the judge decided to let the deliberations continue, the jury convicted Fumo, and now those Internet files are a basis of his appeal.
Wearing a small wireless device to stream continuous live video or audio on the web -- dubbed "sousveillance" -- is a growing trend that may prove impossible to control.
The fact that anyone can now broadcast or receive images and text in a courtroom with a palm-sized or smaller device is a prime concern for judges and sheriffs.
Some courts -- such as the Main Street provincial courthouse in Vancouver -- restrict the use of cellphones, even confiscating them during the day. Sheriffs search all but those with security passes for devices.
Still, computer use at home by jurors and witnesses cannot be restricted unless they are sequestered.
Indeed, the impact of social media on all parts of the legal system is becoming more and more apparent, and the need to address it more urgent.
New technology makes some of the old concerns -- the intrusiveness of old TV cameras, the inability to mask the identity of witnesses who require anonymity -- truly obsolete.
-- Canwest News Service