PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia’s top prosecutor has filed a request with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to stop the livestreaming of trials on YouTube because of the potential for witness or juror intimidation and the inability to ensure someone watching isn’t recording the proceedings.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner filed the request to the state’s highest court Monday. In the petition, which directly asks the court to intervene because of the extraordinary circumstances, the district attorney’s office argues if a recording was made it could retraumatize victims, dissuade witnesses from cooperating or testifying or create a permanent video record even for those who are found not guilty.
Philadelphia’s First Judicial District started the livestreaming of its first homicide trial last Wednesday in its case against Khyzee Brown who is charged with murder in the 2019 shooting death of Markeise Chandler. The district attorney’s office had tried to stop the livestream before the jury trial began, but Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi rejected the concerns.
A message left for a spokesman for Philadelphia’s president judge was not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
Pennsylvania has long objected to the recording of judicial proceedings. A warning is posted above the links to livestreams of trials on the Philadelphia court website, saying, “It is unlawful and a criminal offense to record, transmit or broadcast video, audio or photograph of any judicial proceeding and violators may be found to be in contempt of court and may be criminally charged with a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to two years for a first offense.”
In an emailed statement Monday, Krasner’s office said the Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate as well as 11 other local victims’ organizations had signed on to the petition.
“The criminal legal system is heavily reliant on the cooperation of victims, witnesses, and jurors to seek justice and to deter the commission of crimes. We must be able to offer reasonable assurances that victims will not be unnecessarily re-traumatized, and that those who cooperate in prosecutions will be safe,” Krasner wrote in the email.
Krasner had previously suggested that the proceedings be held in larger courtrooms to allow people to witness them in person while socially distancing, or that people be allowed to watch via closed circuit broadcast to another courtroom where members of the public could maintain social distancing.