Cameras Restricted at Garza County Courthouse - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/12/07

Cameras Restricted at Garza County Courthouse

Post Dispatch publisher Wes Burnett has concerns about the way his staff was treated by Garza County authorities after the paper brought a camera onto the grounds of the Garza County Courthouse.

"We understood that no cameras were allowed in the court room. And that wasn't an issue, because we knew that and we know the judge and we know what her rules are. But just standing in the hallways of the courthouse waiting for someone to come down the stairs...that's not a problem."

Tim Burnett was covering the Pablo Soto murder trial in Garza County when he was asked to leave the building and grounds.

"When I went into the courthouse with my camera, they told me that I could not come in with the camera," said Tim.

"It doesn't say no cameras allowed in the courthouse," said Wes.

Wes believes that this probably has to do with Garza Law Officers not having an understanding of the law. And for Wes and The Post Dispatch, they believe someone should be punished.

"Any government agent, whether appointed or elected, who is unwilling or unable to uphold the rights of the people needs to resign," says Wes.

But is there really an issue here? Can cameras be banned from a courthouse and its grounds? Law professor at Texas Tech, Arnold Loewy says yes, there is an issue and cameras are allowed on public grounds.

"Indeed in terms of not being able to have a camera on courthouse grounds, it seems to me that first amendment rights are violated there," said Arnold.

"They didn't give a reason. They did offer to hold the camera for me though. But I didn't ask for a reason and they didn't give a reason," said Tim.

"For us this is not a question of us getting a picture, it's a question of the rights of an individual to be on a public facility," said Wes. 

To clarify, when it comes to a courtroom not the courthouse, a judge determines whether or not cameras are allowed in that particular courtroom. As for the Soto murder trial, interestingly, the Garza authorities never physically forced us to leave, they only said we couldn't be there.

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