There's never been a more important trial in American history than the one taking place in March 2024 when a former president will be tried for trying to overthrow a legal election.
But it won't be televised.
News organizations and the Trump team, and the general public are calling on a federal judge to allow cameras in the court. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan doesn't want to make an exception to the long-standing rule barring cameras from federal courtrooms.
Courts have long upheld the rule's constitutionality, and the federal judiciary reaffirmed the policy in criminal cases as recently as September.
Prohibiting cameras in the courtroom dates back to the television age when they were wary of feeding what the Supreme Court in a 1966 decision called a "carnival atmosphere" of publicity that could intimidate witnesses, sway jurors, prompt grandstanding by attorneys or judges or deprive criminal defendants of their due process.
One of the things that exacerbated the court's fears happened thirty years ago when a nine-month televised criminal trial and acquittal of retired football star O.J. Simpson on state murder charges in California.
For those that remember that trial it was a theater of the absurd with O.J. trying to pull a glove over his hand and his lawyer calling out, "If it doesn't fit, acquit!" The majority of Americans felt O.J. got away with murder and lost their confidence in the judicial system.
So, I get it. That doesn't mean I like this recent decision not to have cameras in the courtroom.
As a journalist it goes against my grain not to have open transparency for what will probably be called the trial of a century. I can't agree with the rule in this case.
This is the 21st century and we've had leaps in technology with the recent coronavirus pandemic emergency and increasing experimentation by federal courts with live or recorded streaming of oral arguments have led some lawmakers and advocates to ask whether Trump's case might mark a fresh tipping point in the debate.
Or at least provide the impetus for incremental changes such as the archiving of video or the prompt release of audio recordings.
It's also worthwhile to note that Trump's impeachment trial after the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt on the Capitol, and hearings of the House Select Committee that investigated events surrounding the rioting were both nationally televised.
It drew open-day television audiences averaging more than 11 million and 20 million, respectively, not counting online viewers.
Look at it this way, Trump has already made his four indictments into a seamless shit show. It's just going to happen no matter what people want. The former grifter in charge doesn't believe any rules apply to him.
I argue that it's extremely important for the public to fully accept the outcome of the trial by viewing it. It would go a long way towards providing evidence and the credibility of witnesses for all to see and hear.
If Americans do not have confidence that Trump is being treated fairly by the justice system, there is a very real chance they will reject the verdict (whatever it is).
We have to keep in mind that Trump's base is never going to accept a guilty verdict. They are a cult and being reasonable is not part of their DNA.
As it stands, I find it interesting that all parties, including the Trump team, want cameras in the courtroom. Democrats and Republicans have both advocated for cameras along with the national media.