Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/10/2007 (5086 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ray Wyant had already agreed the precedent-setting initiative would begin next week when he allowed live media coverage of his sentencing verdict in the high-profile deadly driving case against a former Winnipeg police officer.
Wyant ultimately decided to back off on this attempt to allow the public to hear exactly how and why he decides on sentence, but sources told the Free Press the issue remains alive.
Wyant is planning on meeting with every provincial court judge in the near future to discuss his proposal further and will likely table a policy that will give each judge the discretion to allow audio and possibly videotaping of court cases.
He believes the idea is a key to addressing what he calls a "crisis in confidence" that currently exists in the justice system.
Wyant -- responding to a request from talk radio station CJOB -- was going to allow for a audio feed inside the courtroom in what likely would have been a Canadian first.
All media outlets would have been able to join in, likely through a pool microphone that would have been set up. Cameras would not have been allowed this time, although that would likely change in the future.
But Wyant changed his mind on Tuesday after coming under fire from within, sources have told the Free Press. A letter purporting to represent the views of other provincial court judges was delivered to Wyant on Monday, expressing serious concern with his decision and the impact on the courts.
Lawyers involved in the specific case also threatened to take action by filing an emergency motion seeking to halt Wyant in his tracks prior to Monday's decision.
Derek Harvey-Zenk has pleaded guilty to killing a Winnipeg mother of three after smashing into her car following a night of partying with friends following his Winnipeg police shift.
Although he refused a breathalyser, alcohol-related charges were dropped by the Crown as part of a plea bargain that angered the victim's family. Both Crown and defence have recommended a conditional sentence which would spare Harvey-Zenk from jail. Wyant has reserved his decision since August.
The Supreme Court of Canada currently allows cameras inside their hearings, while a handful of provinces including Ontario have recently been flirting with the idea of allowing the public greater access to the courts.
Manitoba media outlets could also try and expedite the broadcasting of court cases by filing a motion in a specific case, as no such legislation exists which either allows or forbids such media coverage.
Wyant is a former journalist who believes strongly in making the justice system as open and transparent as possible.
He appears monthly on the Crime and Punishment national radio show (Sundays, 7 p.m. on CJOB in Winnipeg) to take cold-calls from listeners about various criminal questions and concerns.
Judges often complain that media coverage of cases is unfair because the public doesn't always get the full reasons for their controversial decisions because of time and space restrictions.
Wyant told the Free Press he believes allowing people to hear exactly why verdicts and sentences are handed down can only help restore public confidence.
The Free Press has been posting complete written decisions handed down by judges on its website for several months. Wyant said allowing for audio and perhaps video feeds would be another valuable tool.
Yet it's obvious by the negative reaction many judges fear the potential for change.
"A lot of judges just feel safe in their courtrooms, and this threatens that," said a justice source.
U.S. courts have allowed for audio and video feeds for years, although some critics believe it creates a system where lawyers, judges and even witnesses try and put on a "performance" rather then simply deal with the important task at hand.