Third District Judge Pat Brian says he made a mistake in letting television cameras record a jury verdict through open courtroom doors last week.
Videos were taken as jurors in Coalville pronounced John Blanchard guilty in the September 1995 strangulation murder of his ex-wife, Patricia. Her family's reactions were broadcast later from Utah's three television stations."Judge Brian regrets the error . . . and has apologized to judicial leaders," said Jan Thompson, spokeswoman for the Ad-min-is-tra-tive Office of the Courts. "The judge has assured them the situation will not occur again."
A nine-year veteran of the Utah bench, Brian said he was unaware he violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct. It states "a judge should prohibit broadcasting, televising, or recording in the courtroom and areas immediately adjacent thereto during sessions of court or recesses between sessions."
The issue came up last week during a meeting of the Video Recording in the Courtroom Task Force, which is examining what access will be allowed to the official court record once it officially is kept on videotape.
Salt Lake media attorney Jeff Hunt defended television stations, saying that Brian allowed the taping and it is not the reporters' or camera operators' duty to know canons or when a judge can override them.
"The sky didn't fall in when the video was shown on the air," Hunt said. "It may be a big deal to the Utah judiciary, but it is not a big deal to the public."
Patricia Blanchard's parents, LaMar and Shirley Coon, also said the broadcast coverage was not deeply disturbing to them.
Utah courts allow still cameras, but photographing witnesses, defendants and plaintiffs requires the individual's permission. Television reporters did not ask the victim's family for approval, although Brian did obtain permission from defense attorneys and prosecutors before letting television cameras tape.