Monday, October 1, 2007

Courtroom Photography

Hello everyone,
One of the most difficult places in which to photograph is... The courtroom.

{Photo Caption: Accused double-homicide mastermind Theodore Shove, at right, talks with his attorney Alex R. Kessel during opening statements for the murder trial of Shove and his accomplice, the accused killer, Lewis Hardin, at the Los Angeles Superior Court in downtown L.A. on Monday October 1, 2007.}

Yes, this is a place where the judge is the Lord of his or her Kingdom and nothing happens in this place unless the judge lets it happen.

As journalists, we need to report (and photograph) goings-on in the courtrooms, like trials for murder, robbery and kidnapping, to name a few. Our problem is that most of the time, the defense attorneys will cry foul and argue that our photography will compromise their client's right to a fair trial. Many times, the judge will agree with this line of thinking and after spending from a few minutes to a few hours waiting for approval from the judge, we are rejected. But, sometimes, we prevail and are allowed to take photos of the suspects, accused and even convicted murders.

Today was one of those days where the judge did not decide to let me photograph until she had talked to the attorneys. And, much to my relief, she agreed to allow me, but first, with a few stipulations.

Since this was to be opening statements for a murder case, I had to stay in a place unobstrusive and could not photograph the jury (which is fair). And, since I had to stand near the jury box, but away from the public seating, I was not to make any noise or could not leave until a break. As soon as the attorneys were informed that I had been given permission, the defense attorney claimed that I did not have anything to muffle my camera's sound. The judge asked me why I did not have a blimp for the camera and how loud the camera was going to be. I answered the judge very politely and said I was not provided with a blimp by my emplyer and I did a test for her by shotting one frame. She noted that it was not that loud and then she asked how many photos I was going to take. I said it would be about 10 frames and she said ok.

{Photo Caption: MUG SHOT: Accused killer Lewis Hardin, right, looks right into the camera during opening statements of his murder trial at the Los Angeles Superior Court in downtown L.A. on Monday October 1, 2007.}

The next problem was that since there were two defendants, one was sitting right in front of an overhead projector, so he was being blocked most of the time. I wa able to move a little back towards some of the jurors and shot off a few frames of him. But, the main guy, the alleged mastermind of the murders was right in front of me and so he was easier to get. Being in court is already intimidating enough, but having two murder suspects starring at you often is something else. Anyway, proceedings stopped about 12:30 pm and I left with these pics. There are more photos here:

You can also read the grizzly details of how two old people were bludgeoned to death with a tire iron in their bed.

The two defendants are accused of masterminding and murdering La Habra Heights residents and Paramount business owners Hubert and Elizabeth Souther after the Southers refused to sell Shove their hardware and tool business. Shove, also refered to by prosecutors as self-proclaimed Italian crime family member Toni Bonanno, and Hardin face the death penalty if convicted.

This is what a blimp looks like.

Tech Notes: Exposure was manual, wide open 2.8 @ 1/40 to 1/60 secs. 300 lens with monopod. Do not like IS because from previous experience, battery runs out much faster and focus is a little more difficult, specially in low light situations like a courtroom, plus lights were dimmed so jury could see a Powerpoint presentation by the prosecution.

Until next time.


Danny boy said...

I know "Tony" personnally, he talked at length about murder, insurance fraud, money laundering,robbing ships, and many other things.
He claims to be the nephew of Joseph Bonanno who he said was exiled to Tucson.
When I refused to work for him he threatened to have me killed and I had many other guys come around saying ominous things about me being murdered, but it never happened. I'm glad he is finally put away.

KAYLA said...

hey i know him to i cant say how but i do and i am glad to because he was a vilent man and i didn't know him untill a friend of mine was asked to testify against him.

crazygirl15 said...

Me too