BlackBerry ban at Col. Williams hearing lifted
Last Updated: Thursday, October 14, 2010 | 2:09 PM ET
Journalists will be able to use laptops, BlackBerrys and cellphones in the courtroom next week during the sentencing hearing of admitted murderer and sexual stalker Col. Russell Williams.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Scott agreed in a Belleville, Ont., courtroom on Thursday to lift a ban on the use of the electronic devices in the courtroom for accredited members of the media after a pre-trial motion from the CBC and the Ottawa Citizen.
Media lawyers had argued for access to exhibits in the case and the lifting of restrictions imposed on journalists in the courtroom.
Last week, Williams announced through his lawyer that he plans to plead guilty to murder, sexual assault and scores of break-ins and thefts at a sentencing hearing set for Oct. 18.
The former commander at CFB Trenton arrived in court from the Napanee Detention Centre in shackles and handcuffs. About a dozen reporters and three or four members of the public were in court, significantly fewer people than the crowd that gathered during last week's appearance.
But most of the discussion happened behind closed doors as Crown, defence and media lawyers talked about what should be allowed in the courtroom and what evidence should remain sealed for the protection of victims.
Scott also ruled that audio tape recording devices will be allowed to facilitate the taking of accurate notes. Members of the public will not be allowed to use laptops, cellphones or other recording devices during the sentencing and plea.
The media lawyers also asked the judge, as well as prosecutors and Williams's lawyer, for clarification over what evidence can be released to the public and what can be published in the case once his sentencing hearing begins.
That issue will not be resolved until Monday, however, when a plea is entered and evidence exhibits are presented before the court. Once the exhibits are known, media will be able to request which evidence they wish to report to the public and the court will decide whether to allow some or all of it, or if the material requested is too sensitive.
Among the evidence is a lengthy statement a co-operative Williams made to police on the day of his arrest, as well as boxes of items seized during raids the same day at Williams's two homes in Ottawa and Tweed. Those boxes contain reams of photographs and articles of women's clothing along with meticulous notes Williams kept about break-ins and thefts in both communities.With files from the CBC's Dave Seglins
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