Wyoming chief justice says state struggles with technology in courtrooms

2014-04-18T08:03:00Z Wyoming chief justice says state struggles with technology in courtroomsBy PATRICK SIMONAITIS Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite addressed the ban on recording devices and cellphones in most district courts across the state, saying the judiciary will continue to review its policy.

“We’ve been struggling with how to deal with technology,” Kite said Thursday following an event at Casper College. “We’re not trying to be secretive; anyone can walk into the courtrooms.”

Kite said the state has taken a particularly cautious approach to technology in an effort to stop misinformation from spreading and affecting legal proceedings.

“It’s problematic that it can be misused, particularly in jury trials,” she said.

In Casper, the Townsend Justice Center banned cellphones from being inside the building at the beginning of 2014.

Across the U.S., bans on cellphones and other electronics in courtrooms are not uncommon, but exceptions are often made for members of the media.

In Chicago, for example, cellphones and cameras were banned in Cook County courthouses about a year ago because onlookers were reportedly snapping photos of jurors, witnesses and others to intimidate them. Reporters are exempt from that ban.

In the recent high-profile capital murder trial of Nathaniel Castellanos in Cheyenne, certain media restrictions were lifted, including a ban on cellphones and recording devices. Those items had to stay in a media room attached to the courtroom but separated by a glass window.

A similar order was made Monday for the trial of Alice Uden in Cheyenne. Uden is accused of killing a man and hiding his body in the mid-1970s. That trial begins April 29.

Since cellphones have been banned in Casper, no such reprieves have granted.

In the oral arguments heard Thursday at Casper College, cellphones were allowed in the makeshift courtroom, but cameras were restricted until after the hearings had concluded.

Casper Police officers told observers their phones must be off during the arguments.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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