Why Was Depp-Heard Trial Televised?


Under Virginia law, the trial judge has almost total discretion over whether to allow cameras in the courtroom. The statute lists a few instances where cameras are forbidden, however, including the testimony of “victims and families of victims of sexual offenses.”

At the Feb. 25 hearing, Bredehoft argued that Heard is a victim of sexual assault, and that therefore cameras should be disallowed. Azcarate did not accept that reading of the statute, finding the rule does not apply to civil cases.

Amber Heard arrives at court today (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Cameras are a rarity 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 murdering a 19-year-old woman. But that was an outlier, said Joe King, a criminal defense lawyer based in Alexandria.

King represented Charles Severance, a man who was tried in Fairfax County and convicted of three murders in 2015. The case was locally notorious, but the judge denied broadcast requests, instead allowing only still cameras. King said the judge also denied a media request to broadcast another murder trial that he handled in Alexandria.

“It’s very exceptional in Virginia,” he said. “We’ve always objected to that. There is so much going on in a big trial. I don’t think lawyers need that distraction.”

In 2012, a judge in Charlottesville refused to allow cameras at the trial and sentencing of George Huguely, a UVA lacrosse player who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, via Variety The judge held that the cameras would have a harmful effect on witnesses and potential jurors in a future civil case. Media organizations appealed the ruling, but the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the judge’s decision.

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