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Judge Rules: No Cameras

The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui will not be televised.

U.S. District Court judge Leonie Brinkema issued her 13-page ruling on Jan. 18. She was responding to a motion by Court TV and C-SPAN. The two cable television networks filed a motion requesting to televise the trial, stating that there were constitutional issues and that the world had a right to see the proceedings.

While Brinkema said that she appreciated the issues raised, the security concerns were more significant. “The purpose is to determine the innocence or guilt of this defendant,” Brinkema said in her opinion. “None of these proceedings should be photographed or broadcast in any form.”

Moussaoui supported the networks’ motion, stating that it would ensure that he receives a fair trial. Prosecutors disagreed, stating that cameras could cause witnesses to be reluctant to testify.

Joseph Bowman, an Alexandria attorney who represented Mohamed Abdi, agreed with Brinkema’s decision. Abdi’s name and telephone number were found in a car that was linked to one of the Sept. 11 highjackers.

“I think that Judge Brinkema is absolutely right that there is a security risk involved,” Bowman said. “The idea that some attorneys play to the camera is true and something that people have to think about. Judge Brinkema has a responsibility to try and maintain a sane atmosphere in that courtroom, and keeping television cameras out would be a necessary part of that.”

Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel also agreed with Brinkema’s decision. “Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s appropriate to allow television cameras in courtrooms,” Sengel said. “In state court, requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, unlike the federal court, where there is a prohibition against cameras. We had a request to televise the [Gregory] Murphy trial, and Judge Swersky denied it. There may be instances where I wouldn’t oppose having cameras in the courtroom, but there are concerns.”

Court TV and C-SPAN are still deciding whether they will appeal Brinkema’s ruling. The Moussaoui trial is slated to begin in October.