Covering the courts can sometimes be unpleasant.
Over the years, I've been spit at (they missed) and called scum, bottom
feeder and a whole bunch of names I can't reprint here.
It comes with the territory. Emotions are frequently raw at court; egos
and feelings are bruised and worlds are turned upside-down. And the media are
there to record all of that. We will take your picture. We will ask you
questions. We have a right and a responsibility to do that. But we will not
prevent you from going about your business. We aren't allowed. There are lines
-- literally -- at every courthouse that we cannot cross.
But sometimes, members of the public cross that line. It happened again
this week, as you can see in the image accompanying this blog. That's a member
of Chaze Thompson's family, shoving our cameraman. He did it moments after his
relative was confirmed as a cold-blooded killer. Chaze Thompson murdered Sergei
Kostin, an innocent man. To date, Thompson has offered no explanation and shown
His family chose to react to the news by lashing out.
Fortunately, our cameraman wasn't injured. His gear was damaged.
Photographers and camera people are much worse-off than reporters: the tools of
their trade make them more conspicuous, and therefore, more vulnerable to people
who feel the need to vent.
There is a much easier way to avoid the cameras at court: simply make sure
you and your family members don't commit any serious crimes.
Not all courthouse encounters are so unpleasant. Some are just
A few years ago I was in Supreme Court. I don't remember the name of the
accused, or the charges he was facing. I just remember he was a member of one
of the violent gangs which, at the time, were fighting for control of the city's
I chose a seat at the very front of the courtroom so that I could hear what
the judge and lawyers were saying. I immediately regretted my seating choice
when I realized the sheriff's deputies had chosen the chair right in front of me
as the prisoner's bench. It was too late. I could hear the familiar click of
handcuffs being removed in the hall outside.
A large young man with tattoos on both arms came into the courtroom and
made straight for me. He plunked down in the seat just inches from me and
turned to stare. Then he spoke.
"Is it true Jim Nunn is retiring?"
It took me a moment to process the question because it came from so far out
in left field.
When I confirmed it was true, the gang member replied: "That's too bad. I
like him." Then he turned back to face the front of the courtroom.
Imagine my relief.