Cellphones ringing during testimony at the trial of the man accused of killing relatives of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson so piqued a judge that he withdrew permission Wednesday for journalists to bring them into court.
Judges Charles Burns complained the phones — which only reporters had been allowed to use — went off in the middle of testimony at least three times in less than two weeks; he also cited a journalist who held a pen in the corner of her mouth, deeming it a distraction. Journalists had been using the phones to send emails with details from the trial.
A media liaison for the often quick-tempered Burns said the judge had given reporters ample warning that their phones could be yanked if they didn’t remember to switch them to ‘silent’ during the trial for William Balfour, Hudson’s former brother-in-law. He is accused of killing the actress and singer’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in a fit of jealous rage over his then-wife.
“If he did this after the first violation, it would have been overreaction,” Irv Miller said. “But after the fourth time? It was distracting to the judge and jurors.”
Rules for reporters were discussed for months before the trial. Burns offered the rare concession of letting reporters use their cellphones in court — but only for email. He barred postings to Twitter and other social media from the courtroom, believing reporters pounding out their tweets would be particularly disruptive.
Even in Los Angeles, where celebrity trials are routinely televised, cellphone use is usually forbidden, said Manny Medrano, a Los Angeles attorney and former television reporter who regularly comments on high-profile cases.
“Cellphones going off are a hundred times more disruptive than cameras, which these days are so quiet you barely know they are there,” he said. “Journalists in Chicago were given the opportunity — and they blew it. I don’t blame the judge.”
The failure of Burns’ experiment with cellphones comes in a state that has only recently begun seriously looking at allowing cameras in court. The Illinois Supreme Court this year announced it hoped to test their use in a limited number of cases.
The journalist who held her pen in her mouth was initially told that was Burns’ primary complaint. But Miller said the judge also believed she was sending emails too frequently, though the court rules don’t define what is too frequent emailing.
None of the violations cited by the judge involved social media, said Miller. Reporters will still be allowed to use cellphones and tweet from an overflow room. There is no audio or video from trial in that room, however — just a live transcript scrolling up a screen.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
1 of 25
2 of 25
3 of 25
4 of 25
5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
5 of 25
6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
6 of 25
7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
7 of 25
8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
8 of 25
9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
9 of 25
10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
10 of 25
11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
11 of 25
12. Late nights mornings
12 of 25
13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
13 of 25
14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
14 of 25
15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
15 of 25
16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
16 of 25
17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
17 of 25
18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
18 of 25
19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
19 of 25
20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
20 of 25
21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
21 of 25
22. Claudia Jordan: ....
22 of 25
23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
23 of 25
24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
24 of 25
25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
25 of 25