Just when you thought that Richard Chichakli had completely exhausted all possible grounds for a new trial, he drops a bomb. In a letter to the Court*, dated May 31, 2014, the defendant inquires about the unusual presence of video cameras in the courtroom during the trial. He claims, for the first time, that the presence of a camera in the courtroom seriously distracted him, and was prejudicial at his trial.
Media photography, both still and video, is prohibited by law in the Federal Court system, in the trial courts. A pilot program, a couple of years ago, was strictly limited to a small number of Districts, in civil cases only, and it has expired.
Chichakli requests information on these points:
(1) On whose authority was the video recording camera installed ?
(2) For what purpose was the video recording installed, and for whose benefit was the recording made ?
(3) Why was the camera only pointing at the defendant, and not to the other courtroom participants ?
(4) Who is using, or used, the recording ?
Finally, the defendant demanded a copy of the recording.
The Court, in an Order entered on June 5, responded as follows:
(A) The video equipment was sitting in that courtroom for another case, to provide a closed-circuit live feed for a case where there was great public interest, ACLU vs. Clapper, and an overflow courtroom was available to accommodate them. The trial judge has the authority to order this type of arrangement, for the purpose of public access to the courts.
(B) There was no recording made of the Chichakli trial. In any event, the video unit does not record proceedings; no tape are made of proceedings making use of live video feed. There was no recording of the Chichakli case, or any other case, in that courtroom.
(C) The camera was pointed at the podium, where counsel in the other case were making oral arguments. (Remember, Chichakli, being Pro Se, was at that podium during his trial).
Thus, no Federal laws and rules of procedure were broken, regarding unauthorized recording of a Federal criminal trial.
The Court's ruling: Chichakli's argument, that he has suffered prejudice, was frivolous.
* Case No.: 09-cr-1002-WHP (SDNY).