McLean Co. trial making history

By Anna Yee

February 5, 2013 Updated Feb 6, 2013 at 11:26 AM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Long gone are the days of courtroom sketches.

You'll probably rarely see them anymore, at least at the McLean County Law and Justice Center, since Tuesday marked the first hearing ever in Illinois' 11th Judicial Circuit allowing cameras in a trial courtroom.

For the first time, news cameras and electronic recordings picked up everything from the judge's comments to the defendant's tears.

It's all part of the Illinois Supreme Court's pilot program that started about a year ago.

"The goal is to make sure that the public understands that business is being done every day, to understand that it's a fair process," said Chief Judge Elizabeth Robb, of the 11th Judicial Circuit.

On Tuesday, a judge denied Misook Nowlin's request for new attorneys.

Nowlin was previously convicted of murdering her 70-year-old mother-in-law and will be sentenced March 1.

Attorneys say publicizing the judicial process is good for the lawyers and for the public.

"I think if anything, some of them might try a little harder," said Jason Chambers, the McLean Co. State's Attorney. "Things like CSI and shows that do the sensational aspects, I think it can be very helpful if people have the opportunity to see a part of what's actually going on and how cases are actually going on in our community."

"I think you saw a good slice of what happens in the courthouse every day," said Brian McEldowney, defense attorney for Nowlin.

But not all cases will be recorded.

"No juvenile cases. No adoption. No child custodies where the victim of a sex offense testifies."

Any party or witness can also file an objection to be filmed..
And each hearing must first be media-approved.

Still, judges are hoping to expand the concept of cameras in the courtroom to Peoria County and beyond.

"In Iowa and Wisconsin, cameras in the courtroom have been around for 20 years," said Chief Judge Robb. "So, this is a historic day."

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