Victims decide if court trials are livestreamed online

Published: 10/21/2020 8:08:36 PM
Rules on testimony broadcast changed

Crime victims will not have their testimony broadcast online without their consent under new court rules in New Hampshire aimed at balancing public health and public access to jury trials during the coronavirus pandemic.

After being suspended for six months, superior court trials resumed in late August, with limited in-person attendance and online livestreaming to allow the public to view the proceedings. But the rules drew complaints from the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence after Cheshire County Attorney Chris McLaughlin said his office was forced to drop second-degree assault charges against a college student because the victim backed out of testifying when she learned her testimony would be broadcast online.

Court officials said Wednesday they worked with the coalition, prosecutors and defense attorneys to develop new rules. Going forward, if a victim does not consent to a livestream, the court will reserve space in the courtroom for public access.

“The Judicial Branch has worked during these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic to develop a plan that allows us to resume criminal jury trials in a safe manner while making sure we provide constitutionally sufficient public access to our courts,” said Chief Justice of the Superior Court Tina Nadeau. “We have determined this revised policy would better ensure an appropriate balance between the defendant’s and public’s right to observe jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic and victims’ rights to prevent their identity from being spread across the Internet.”

– The Associated Press

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