The problem is the TV footage, not a pencil and paper

Newsletter: Solving the problem for all would require a broad systemic debate that does not currently exist in Spain.
By Matthew Bennett
Nov 16, 2021, 11:20 am

The provincial court judge in Huelva, Florentino Ruiz Yamuza, today published his order with the arguments for throwing all journalists out of the entire Laura Luelmo murder trial. All the parties asked him to do it, he asked the jury and then of course argued that the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court, the Spanish Constitution, the Judicial Power Act, the Jury Act, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Statute of the Victim all backed him up.

The precedent is set, whether or not other judges copy the Yamuza format in future trials. If they were to do so, we would not have any news in Spain about trials for the most serious crimes because it could always be argued, as they have done today in Huelva, that the memory or dignity of the victim or their relatives will be affected.

The parties affected by the total closure, in this case broader society via the media, are not parties to the trial and cannot therefore present any formal appeal or letter to the court to petition the judge to reconsider or reverse his course.

In the trial for the murder of Gabriel Cruz in Almería two years ago, the same regional high court organised things quite well faced with a similar request from the family for the entire trial to be held behind closed doors. The judge then did not consult with the jury and decided by herslf to restrict access to some of the witness statements from the parents and relatives and also the forensic testimony.

When the Civil Guard criminal science experts and the officers who had taken the photos of both the murderer removing the body of the child from the estate and those of the subsequent removal of the body from the car testified, there were reporters in the courtroom but they cut off the video signal to the press room next door so that those images would never appear on TV or the Internet.

And they were very right to do so. Those images were horrible. No parent would ever want them to be seen outside of court.

Relatives also have the right, according to the law, not to be photographed or recorded at the trial, if they want to ask the judge for that. They don't even have to see the accused if they don't want to. They put up screens for that. The problem is the images and the treatment given to them on TV. The pace and intensity and the lack of seriousness many programs treat these very serious trials with.

But that doesn't mean we can become North Korea and shut everything down in all formats. Solving this problem for everyone would require a long and broad systemic debate on journalism, the media, technology, attention, trials, victims and their families. Political parties are not, at the moment, ready for that debate, but it would not be an issue without a solution.

The most important thing from the point of view of serious journalism is not the images, which is what outrages relatives.

The most important thing is the cross-checking and the chronicling of what happens in the courtroom, how the testimonies fit together, the emerging account of the events, and the behavior and attitudes of everyone in court.

Because a trial, necessarily, is all about arguing and cross-examining different versions of the same events. The prosecutor offers one version, the defense another, and the lawyer for the relatives a third. That is what a trial is all about. Then the witnesses, inspectors and experts offer information and statements that support or dispprove one aspect or another.

The minimum requirement from the perspective of serious journalism would be the presence of reporters with pencils and notebooks (and I see no reason why silenced laptops to do live written chronicles cannot also be used) be allowed in the courtroom, whoever is testifying and whatever is being seen, so that exercise of cross-checking and chronicling on behalf of all at the public level can take place.

Notes

1. Right, a new week begins. Let's try to combine technologies and news and rhythms again. Today the Laura Luelmo murder trial begins, but I will put those notes in a separate thread later for you. Daily newsletter notes on other topics here.

Published: Nov 15, 2021, 11:25 am | On Twitter

2. A poll in Vozpópuli says both PP and Vox voters on the right prefer Madrid PP leader Ayuso to national PP leader Casado. Might Spain see a contest between Ayuso and Yolanda Díaz to become the country's first female PM at the next general election? Link

Published: Nov 15, 2021, 11:32 am | On Twitter

3. Supreme Court tells Alberto Rodriguez (Podemos) "it is not appropriate" to suspend the execution of his jail sentence for kicking a policeman. His lawyer didn't even file the right paperwork. Supreme Court is not an appeal chamber for a decision taken by Speaker of Congress.

Published: Nov 15, 2021, 11:53 am | On Twitter

4. Right, let's continue with the newsletter notes in the same thread as yesterday. In the end with what happened at the court in Huevla and the judge, Florentino Ruiz Yamuza, ruling to kick reporters out of the entire Laura Luelmo murder trial, we got sidetracked.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 1:42 pm | On Twitter

5. Regional High Court in Andalusia has just sent along the judge's reasons for closing off the entire trial to the media. All of the parties—prosecution, defense, regional government and public prosecutor—had asked him to do so and he asked the jury.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 1:54 pm | On Twitter

6. As expected, the judge, Ruiz Yamuza, argues his ruling based on the Spanish Constitution, the Judiciary Act, the Jury Act, the Criminal Procedure Act, the Victims Statute and the legal precedent set by both the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 2:06 pm | On Twitter

7. Ruiz Yamuza: “The protection of the victim's right to memory and privacy justifies holding the trial behind closed doors, in order to avoid secondary victimization that would follow from the oridinary celebration of the hearing”.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 2:09 pm | On Twitter

8. Laura Luelmo's parents wrote to the court that the media treatment of the case “has already generated 'a tremendous disturbance that we have experienced as a serious interference in our privacy and a lack of respect for our rights'”.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 2:12 pm | On Twitter

9. “All parties” agreed, writes the judge, including Montoya's defence lawyer, which “places the plane of analysis outside the axis where the rights of the victim would conflict with the right to a defense”. It is victims' rights vs. right to information.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 2:15 pm | On Twitter

10. "...we choose to prioritise the one where the victims do not have to see the suffering inherent in their loss increased, with the moral damage resulting from the public exposure of a series of facts that will be examined in the course of the trial”.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 2:20 pm | On Twitter

11. Ruiz Yamuza concludes by denying that his ruling to kick all journalists out of the entire trial means there will be no information about it. The regional high court press office will inform us of what they consider to be relevant in this regard. Auctorictas, non veritas.

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 2:29 pm | On Twitter

12. Government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez announced at post-cabinet press conference that they are granting a partial pardon to Juana Rivas. Prison sentence reduced from 2.5 years to 1 year and three months, taking into account “the interests of the child".

Published: Nov 16, 2021, 3:29 pm | On Twitter

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