Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:
In a recent guest column, the head of Court TV expresses his dismay at our ABC News limited series “In the Jury Room.” In our series, we take a behind-the-scenes look at several criminal trials, including the proceedings themselves, the internal workings of the prosecution and defense teams, and the jury deliberations.

The basic objection of the column is that “jury deliberations are meant to be private.” But surely much of the best journalism in this country has always involved things that are “meant to be private” (at least by the subjects involved). It would be a strange world in which we as reporters confined ourselves to reporting on only those matters that were put in the public domain.

But even more striking is the fact — overlooked in the column — that each and every participant in the trials we covered was fully informed of our coverage and agreed that the matters involved, including the jury deliberations, could be broadcast. Obtaining these consents required hundreds of hours of work, much of it to design our coverage so as to ensure that nothing we did would interfere in any way with the proceedings or the outcomes of the trials. Neither the judge nor the prosecution nor the defense would have agreed to our filming the proceedings — and especially the jury deliberations — if they had believed that we would have interfered in any way with the dispensing of justice in these cases.

I agree wholeheartedly that the criminal jury trial occupies a special place in our system of justice. But, it is precisely because of the importance of the jury trial in our system of government that so much research has been done by so many into what is otherwise “meant to be private.” Our documentaries add an important chapter to that research. I am deeply proud of our work on “In the Jury Room.”

David Westin

ABC News President

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