Why was the Depp-Heard trial televised? Critics say it’s the ‘worst decision’ ever made for victims of sexual violence

Viewed by millions Penny AzkaratChief Judge of the Circuit Court of Fairfax County (Virginia), as she presided over Johnny Depp and amber heard the past six weeks.

Azkarat has maintained a low profile presence, accepting or rejecting evidence, occasionally admonishing witnesses to focus on the issues. But Azkarat’s most important decision may have been made in the weeks before the trial, when she allowed Court TV to operate two billiard cameras in the courtroom.

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According to Legal & Crime, which broadcast the whole thing live, viewership grew exponentially as the trial progressed. When Depp made his remarks on Wednesday, his channel had a peak of 1,247,163 live viewers, more than double the peak of his first testimony in April. Over the past few weeks, the demo clips have become inevitable on social media as a mashup of Depp’s reaction footage has gone viral around the world.

Viewers were presented with gruesome and often harrowing testimony, especially that of Heard, who claimed that Depp sexually assaulted her and assaulted her so much that she feared she would be killed. In her last appearance on the stand on Thursday, Hurd said it was “humiliating” to relive those moments in front of the camera. Depp has denied Heard’s allegations and accused her of creating an elaborate hoax that ruined his career.

Hurd’s team tried unsuccessfully to exclude the camera from the trial. At the February 25 pretrial hearing, attorney Elaine Bredehoft noted that there had been a lot of media attention and interest from the “horrible anti-Amber network.”

“They’re going to do anything bad — look,” Breidhoff said. “They’ll take it out of context and play it over and over.”

Depp’s attorney, Ben Chew, welcomed the cameras. He said Heard had “spoiled” Depp in the media and should not have been allowed to hide from the trial.

“Mr. Depp believes in transparency,” Zhou said.

Judge Penny Azkarat - Credit: Associated Press

Judge Penny Azkarat – Credit: Associated Press

Associated Press

In weighing the issue, Azkarat noted that she has received many requests from the media and it is her responsibility to open the proceedings to observers. If cameras are not allowed, she fears that reporters will come to the courthouse, potentially creating a dangerous situation there.

“I don’t see any reason not to,” Azkarat said.

Allowing gavel-to-gavel coverage gives viewers the opportunity to see all the evidence, assess the credibility of witnesses, and make their own decisions without any filtering by the news media. But some observers worry that Azkarat’s decision will also have a chilling effect on victims of domestic violence.

“In the context of recent history of intimate partner violence and sexual violence, the worst decision I can think of is to allow this trial to be televised,” said Michele Dauber, a professor at Stanford Law School. “Its consequences go well beyond this case.”

Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney representing crime victims in high-profile cases, said her clients often don’t even want their real names to be used in public court documents. Now, she worries that they will have to be afraid to be on the air.

“They see a person not only being televised, but being torn apart in such a hateful way,” she said. “Live it is really just a way of amplifying what the survivors are going through. I am saddened and disgusted by how it creates a discourse that scare people into seeking justice and speaking out about what they are going through.”

Under Virginia law, trial judges have almost complete discretion over whether to allow cameras in court.Bylaws Lists some examples of prohibited camera useHowever, testimonies from “sex crime victims and their families” are included.

At the February 25 hearing, Breidhooft argued that Hurd was a victim of sexual assault and should therefore be banned from using the cameras. Azkarat rejected the interpretation of the statute, arguing that the rule does not apply in civil cases.

Cameras are rare in Virginia courts, according to several attorneys who practice there. A Fairfax County judge did allow them in the 2013 trial of Julio Blanco Garcia, who was convicted of the murder of a 19-year-old woman. But that’s an outlier, said Jokin, an Alexandria-based criminal defense attorney.

King represented Charles Severance, a man tried in Fairfax County and convicted of three murders in 2015. The case was notorious locally, but the judge rejected the broadcast request, allowing only static cameras. The judge also rejected a media request to air another murder trial he was handling in Alexandria, King said.

“This is very special in Virginia,” he said. “We’ve been against that. There’s a lot going on in one big trial. I don’t think lawyers need that kind of distraction.”

In 2012, a Charlottesville judge refused to allow cameras during the trial and sentencing of George Huguely, a UVA hockey player convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend. The judge believes the cameras will have a detrimental effect on witnesses and potential jurors in future civil cases.Media groups appealed the ruling, but Virginia Supreme Court Uphold the judge’s decision.

Rhonda Quagliana, an attorney representing Huguely, said she was concerned the cameras would make it harder for him to get a fair trial. But she’s not against cameras in all situations.

“It’s a tough balance,” she said, noting that she watched the trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of the murder of George Floyd. “This is an example of a camera in a courtroom serving an important purpose. People need to see that trial. They need to see orderly justice.”

Fairfax-based lawyer Lawrence McClafferty has been working on a case after Depp-Heard and sees Depp supporters waiting outside every day to watch it. actor. He said the Commonwealth was unlikely to see something similar anytime soon.

“Virginia is a conservative place,” he said. “We’re not used to cameras, it can be distracting and distracting, and one more thing that judges have to worry about. I don’t think we’ll see more of that.”

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