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Steve Karnowski, Associated Press Writer, Published October 13 2010

Committee OKs courtroom camera test

ST. PAUL – A proposed pilot program to test the use of news cameras in Minnesota’s trial courts took a step forward Tuesday, but with an expensive price tag.

A court advisory committee voted 7-6 to recommend that the test go forward but determined it should include a major University of Minnesota study on the experiment to determine whether allowing cameras could discourage victims and witnesses from coming forward.

The study is budgeted to cost nearly $490,000, bringing the total costs of the pilot project to more than $730,000.

The committee chairwoman, retired Judge Elizabeth Hayden, acknowledged that it would be an “extremely expensive study.” The proposal calls for the costs to be covered by news organizations, donations and grants. Some members expressed qualms about the money and whether the study would provide solid data about whether cameras have a chilling effect on justice.

The committee voted 8-5 against adding an alternative recommendation for a less extensive study if the proposed university study proves unfeasible due to the cost.

The final decision on whether and how to proceed will be up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which has set an Oct. 30 deadline for the committee’s final report.

The Supreme Court asked the committee, made up mostly of judges and other members of the legal community, to design the pilot project after several Minnesota media organizations in 2007 petitioned for greater camera access.

According to the Radio Television Digital News Association, Minnesota’s rules are among the most restrictive in the country.

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