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TIMELINE: The history of cameras in Indiana courtrooms

History of cameras in Indiana courtrooms
Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 26, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — WRTV cameras have captured history from nearly every corner of central Indiana for more than 70 years with one notable exception - inside Indiana courtrooms. But that’s about to change.

The Indiana Supreme Court is lifting its ban on television cameras and it will change the way we bring you the news.

For decades, sketch artist renderings were the only images we were able to show you from inside Indiana courtrooms.

The American Bar Association opposed photography in the nation's courtrooms long before television was invented. And in Indiana, a rule in the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct effectively banned recording devices like television cameras.

But despite these restrictions, there have been several notable exceptions throughout Indiana's courtroom history.

Timeline of cameras in Indiana courtrooms

April 1959 — Judge Thomas J. Faulconer granted camera access to his first jury trial when Connie Nicholas was charged with the murder of Eli Lilly executive Forrest Teel. Nicholas testified that the deadly shooting of her married lover was accidental. Nicholas was found guilty and sentenced to 2-21 years.

1959: Judge sentences Connie Nicholas

Our cameras covered this story from the very beginning.

Photographer Jim Bechdol arrived with police when Nicholas was found inside her car on July 31, 1958. Nicholas was thought to be deceased after taking a large amount of sleeping pills, but she was later discovered to be alive.

October - December 1961 — Judge Thomas J. Faulconer once again allowed cameras inside his courtroom to document another murder trial. WFBM-TV, now WRTV-TV, recorded the sentencing of convicted murder Michael Layton in December 1961.

September 1977 — Blackford Circuit Court Judge Bruce Bade allowed the use of tape recorders in the trial of Roger Drollinger, the mastermind behind the 1977 Valentine's Day murders in Hollandsburg, Indiana. WRTV aired sketch artist renderings during this trial.

October 1977 — Marion County Superior Court Judge Michael Dugan allowed television cameras to record the verdict in the Anthony Kiritsis trial. Audible cries pierced the courtroom as Kiritsis was acquitted of the kidnapping charges brought against him.

Anthony Kiritsis learns his fate

November 1977 — Marion County Criminal Court Judge John B. Wilson Jr. allowed WRTV to access the courts video camera system in addition to gathering its own recordings during the Marjorie Jackson murder trial. Howard Willard was charged with murder in the shooting death of the Standard Grocery heiress. After five days of video coverage, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard M. Givan sent a letter to every judge in the state reaffirming that the recording of court proceedings was forbidden.

1978 — Various judges allowed television cameras to record proceedings through open courtroom windows and doors.

April 1979 — Chief Justice Richard M. Givan condemned the practice of allowing cameras to record court proceedings in another letter sent to judges. Reacting to the letter, Hancock Superior Court Judge Richard Payne placed restrictions on WRTV sketch artist Lynn Thompson, and moved her to the back of the courtroom.

June 1979 — Chief Justice Richard M. Givan expressed continued support for keeping court rules restricting courtroom recordings.

January 1981 — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states are permitted to allow the recording of criminal trials even if a defendant objects. Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard M. Givan reiterated his belief that ensuring the fairness of a trial is imperative.

January 1982 — State Sen. Dan Burton (R-Indianapolis) introduced a bill to permit judges to allow media coverage. The judiciary committee did not schedule any hearings for the bill effectively killing it.

December 1986 — Chief Justice Richard M. Givan informed the Judicial Nominating Commission of his intention to step down as chief justice.

February 1987 — The Judicial Nominating Commission selected Randall T. Shepard as the new chief justice. Shepard said courtroom cameras should not be feared. WRTV journalist Howard Caldwell addressed the change during his Howard's Perspective segment. Caldwell referenced the Florida trial of former Indiana State Police Trooper Jerry Cliver, noting that coverage of the trial was broadcast for anyone to see.

March 1987 — Evansville native and Chief Justice Designate Randall T. Shepard expressed support for allowing cameras inside Indiana courtrooms to WRTV's Derrik Thomas. Shepard noted that courts in Kentucky had seemingly not lowered the quality of justice with the use of courtroom cameras.

August 1987 — Attorneys representing double murder suspect Dennis Wayne Brown requested for cameras to be allowed to record Brown's death penalty trial. The Indiana Supreme Court denied the request.

July 1991 — A three-year pilot program allowing video cameras inside some federal courtrooms began.

December 1991 — WRTV reporter Derrik Thomas talked with Supreme Court Justice Richard M. Givan and Supreme Court Chief Randall T. Shepard about cameras in the courtroom ahead of the upcoming Mike Tyson rape trial.

January 1992 — Marilyn Lis reported there will be a closed-circuit video feed provided during the rape trial of Mike Tyson, but the media was prohibited from recording or broadcasting any of the proceedings.

February 1993 — The excessive force trial of Indianapolis Police Officer Scott Haslar unfolded in front of television cameras inside an Indiana federal courtroom.

September 1996 — The Indiana Supreme Court began experimenting with allowing cameras inside Indiana courtrooms. WRTV reporter Phil Breman traveled to Evansville where cameras were allowed to record the death penalty appeal proceedings of Matthew Eric Wrinkles.

September 1996 — The Indiana Supreme Court experimented with allowing cameras to record several proceedings.

Indiana Supreme Court camera test

July 2006 — The Indiana Supreme Court began an 18-month pilot program which allows court proceedings to be recorded as long as both the prosecution and defense agree to it.

July 2006 — WRTV aired portions of a pre-trial hearing for double murder suspect Royal Amos. It is the first criminal court proceedings aired during the pilot program.

June 2007 — WRTV records the trial of Paul Fox. Fox was found guilty on several charges including pointing a firearm.

December 2007 — The pilot program ended. Despite hundreds of media requests, only a handful of cases were allowed to be recorded.

December 2021 — The Indiana Supreme Court launched another pilot program. Approximately 50 media requests were made during the four-month-long program.

February 2023 — Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush announced the rule banning cameras will be lifted giving individual judges the power to determine whether or not to allow cameras.