Unable To Judge For Ourselves


Nervous, polite, rigid, emotionless. Those were just some of the adjectives used to describe Arizona shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner at his arraignment in a federal court Monday in Phoenix, that and artist’s renderings which, with apologies to one artist, looked more like Lyndon Johnson at about age 40 than the pictures I have seen of the 20-year-old Loughner even without his hair.

In addition to the issues of violent rhetoric and security for elected officials, add cameras and microphones in federal courts, or the lack of them, to the list that should be collected following the mass shootings.

Because cameras are still barred from federal courts, criminal and appeals, the nation has to hear second-hand descriptions about what Loughner looked like as he faced his accusers, which are us.

His head was shaven (forget that mop-top photo that has been all over cable news). There were bruises and cuts, said CNN and Fox, and tellingly, Ted Rowlands of CNN said, Loughner seemed to “clearly understand everything.” Given that how much he “clearly understands” is pivotal to how the legal system treats him, to force the nation to rely on descriptions by others when technology could so easily make us part of the audience, is a disservice to us and the system, and, frankly, to Loughner, though he is far down on my list of folks whose interests I’m interested in.

CNN reporter Ted Rowlands, who was in the court, said that the judge appeared to pause dramatically when he got to reading the charge of murder against his fellow Arizona federal judge John Roll, but added: “I may be overanalyzing.”

Maybe, but we won’t be able to judge for ourselves since we could not see or hear what was going on.

I am not saying that all federal criminal courts should be opened, but that judges should have the discretion when the need arises to let everyone see and hear.

But maybe it’s just me.