Manitoba's courts are allowing the media to broadcast some proceedings for the first time, starting with a murder trial verdict this week.
The Court of Appeal, Court of Queen's Bench and provincial court are taking part in a pilot project that will allow video recordings of selected hearings.
The project will start with CBC providing other media outlets with live audio and video pool feeds of the following two hearings:
- April 16: Verdict in the second-degree murder trial of Cassandra Knott, who is charged in connection with her husband's death in 2011. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shane Perlmutter will hand down his verdict at 1 p.m.
- April 30: Appeal of Denis Jerome Labossiere's three first-degree murder convictions in the deaths of his parents and brother in a farm house fire in 2005. The Court of Appeal will hear the case on this day.
Officials will talk more about the pilot project at a news conference slated for Tuesday.
Cameras have never been allowed inside Manitoba's courtrooms, forcing print and broadcast journalists to rely on court sketches and interviews outside the courthouse to illustrate what happened at trials and hearings.
"Courtrooms are open. They're open to the public. But of course … most people can't come to the courthouse to see cases," provincial court Judge Raymond Wyant told CBC News on Monday.
"They work. It's hard to get to. And cameras are just a natural extension of our open court policy."
CBC Manitoba's managing editor, Cecil Rosner, said the public broadcaster has been trying over the years to get cameras into the province's courts, and he's pleased the project is now going ahead.
'Easier for them to access' trials
In February 2012, a jury found Labossiere guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of his parents, Fernand and Rita Labossiere, and his brother Remi.
The bodies of the three Labossiere members were found in the basement of their farm house in St. Leon, Man., after a fire in November 2005. It was later determined they had been shot.
Labossiere's sister, Paulette Desrochers, says allowing cameras in the courtroom for the appeal hearing will hopefully help the public understand the case.
"If, you know, they want to know what is going on, it's easier for them to access," she said Monday.
"Maybe it would open … some people's eyes and [they would] say, like, 'Geez, you know, this is what these people go through.'"
But Kate Kehler, acting executive director of the John Howard Society of Manitoba, said she's concerned that having cameras in court may have a negative impact on those on trial.
"The whole idea is to be getting to the truth of the matter," she said.
"Here I am right now, talking to you, trying not to pay attention to the camera. It puts a level of artificiality on it."
Kehler said whether or not a person is exonerated at trial, the mental image of that person before the court would be seared into people's minds.